An Australian health researcher and food scientist wants us to stop making Santa fat by purposely sticking pillows or other stuffing down the front of the famous red suit.
Dr Vincent Candrawinata knows he won’t necessarily be popular for saying so, but he says someone needs to.
“Shopping centres should not go above and beyond and make a concerted effort to make Santa look fat,” he told news.com.au.
Dr Candrawinata is calling for a healthier representation of Santa and while “skinny does not actuate being healthy,” he said we need to stop teaching children to associate the joy of Christmas with overindulging in bad foods.
“For a lot for us, myself included, it’s one of our earliest, joyful childhood memories and I think that it can have a profound positive impact on children when they don’t see the association with a joyful holiday and the urge to gorge and overindulge in terms of food and beverages,” he said.
“Kids absorb a lot much more than we think they do.”
It’s not just the constant portrayal of Santa with a big belly that Dr Candrawinata has a problem with.
He would like parents to consider ditching the cookies and milk on Christmas Eve.
“Perhaps parents can start the conversation with the kids that maybe leaving green and red apples – which are Christmas colours – for Santa can be a healthier alternative, because at the end of the day we have to start somewhere,” he said.
“In 2012 in Canada there was a push to ban the portrayal of Santa with the smoking pipe and that worked.
“If Santa can drop one unhealthy habit maybe it can be the beginning of something better, showing kids you can be happy, healthy, jolly without having to be overweight.”
Canadian publisher Pamela McColl copped criticism and even threats when she released a retelling of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, better known by its first line Twas the Night Before Christmas, in 2012.
She removed all mentions of Santa smoking and removed his pipe from the illustrated cover.
The American Library Association claimed it was an act of censorship but Ms McColl said removing the few words did not change the “material intent of the author” or “infringe on the reader’s understanding or enjoyment” of the story.
“If this text is to survive another 200 years it needs to modernise and reflect today’s realities,” she said at the time, according to The Guardian.
“I want children to celebrate the spirit of giving and to reflect proudly on the holiday traditions that shape their childhood, and the best way to honour Santa and this story is to make him smoke-free.”
Dr Candrawinata said he wanted people to know his passion and push to make Santa healthier comes from a good place.
“I lost my grandpa to heart disease and I really do think it had a lot to do with him being overweight and I really do think someone needs to talk about this, and this is the reason I am in the field I am,” he said.