Only men can fill Santa Claus’ big black boots

Orewa needs a new Santa – and only males can apply. Pictured is the 2017 Santa – last year’s parade was cancelled due to a forecast storm.

At a time when gender is increasingly broad, fluid and widely inclusive, the Orewa Santa Claus will always be a male, according to organisers of the Orewa Beach Santa Parade.

The community parade is put on by local business association Destination Orewa Beach, which recently put out a call for a new man in red.

“We are in search of a fit and active man – yes, sorry, in the time of equality, Santa will still always be a man...” the advertisement stated.

Destination Orewa operations manager, Hellen Wilkins, is clear that only a man can take on the position. This follows the controversy that erupted before last year’s Farmer’s Christmas Parade in Auckland when the incumbent Santa Neville Baker (who also runs a recruitment business specialising in professional Santas) was initially sacked, and later reinstated, for saying in no uncertain terms that women were not suitable for the role.

At the time, he received a lot of public support for that view.

“The Orewa Santa will always be a male,” Mrs Wilkins says. “St Nicholas, who started the ‘stocking hanging’ tradition associated with Christmas, was a male. Children and the older generation expect a male.”

She says to blend tradition with current times and the culture of Orewa, the Orewa Santa is often “beach styled” – blending together both the beach and traditional aspects that the community and children identify with.

However, although the Orewa Santa has been modernised and made suitable for our Kiwi summer Christmas – by dressing him in a short-sleeved shirt, for example – that does not extend to opening the role to other genders.

However, Mrs Wilkins says there are opportunities for equality and diversity surrounding Santa on the float, such as the people filling the roles of ‘elf helpers’.

At the time that the Farmer’s Christmas parade issue arose, legal opinions were published that made it clear that under the Human Rights Act, 1993, although it is illegal to discriminate against potential employees based on their gender, where there is an aspect of authenticity required for a particular role (such as Santa, who has traditionally been a large man with a big white beard) exceptions could be made.

Asked whether a woman, or someone from the rainbow community would be turned away if they applied to be the Orewa Santa, Mrs Wilkins says that is a hypothetical and unlikely scenario that has simply not arisen as yet.


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