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Updated Dec 25, 2023, 6:21am EST
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Feeding sharks, day drinking, and ‘Sustaina Claus’: Santa around the world in 2023

Insights from CNN, Houston Chronicle, and NYT

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Clockwise from top left: Santas in New York, Jerusalem, Rome, Karachi
Clockwise from top left: New York, Jerusalem, Rome, Karachi / Photos by Reuters/David Dee Delgado, Ammar Awad, Guglielmo Mangiapane, Akhtar Soomro
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In addition to delivering presents to millions of children around the world this year, Santa Claus also dove with sharks at a Malta aquarium, ran half-naked through Budapest, drove a neon bus outside São Paulo, and got a ticket for openly drinking on the streets of Manhattan.

The modern image of Santa — a jolly old man from the North Pole dressed in red and white — has firmly been adopted worldwide, even in some countries that have their own religious and cultural Santa-like figures.

Scenes from nearly every continent show how Santa has become integrated into global Christmas celebrations.

In Guatemala, a firefighter Santa rappelled down a bridge to give toys to children:

Guatemalan firefighter Hector Chacon, dressed as Santa Claus, rappels down the Belize Bridge to give toys to children at the Jesus de la Buena Esperanza neighbourhood, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, December 17, 2023.
REUTERS/Cristina Chiquin

Dozens of Santas rowed along the Grand Canal in Venice:

People dressed as Santa Claus row during a Christmas regatta along the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, December 17, 2023.
REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

Half-naked Santas ran for charity in chilly Budapest:

People dressed as Santa Claus row during a Christmas regatta along the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, December 17, 2023.
REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

A diver dressed as Santa fed fish and sharks at Malta National Aquarium:

Divers dressed as Santa Claus and one of his elves play with a zebra shark, while feeding sharks and fishes inside a fish tank at the Malta National Aquarium, in Qawra, Malta, December 1, 2023.
REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Someone dressed as “Sustaina Claus” made a cameo at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai earlier this month:

An observer dressed as Santa Claus gestures as he poses for a photo, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 11, 2023.
REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

The Santa Run in Caracas, Venezuela featured at least one Grinch:

A man dressed as The Grinch takes part in the Santa Run 10-kilometre race, in Caracas, Venezuela, December 17, 2023.
REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

On the topic of holiday cheer being stolen, the infamous SantaCon in New York certainly led to more than a few public infractions:

A police officer writes a ticket for a reveller at the SantaCon in New York City, New York, U.S., December 9, 2023.
REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

In a city outside São Paulo, a local councilman dressed up a Santa and drove a bus lit up in neon lights:

Councilman Edilson Santos, dressed as Santa Claus, drives the 'Bus Noel', a bus decorated by him and his family with Christmas ornaments, as people wait to board it at Jardim Alzira Franco, in Santo Andre, Brazil December 19, 2023.
REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

And in Houston, Pancho Claus, known as the “Tex-Mex Santa” from the South Pole, made his annual appearance:

Richard Reyes, dressed as Pancho Claus, poses with children at the Navidad en el Barrio event in Houston, Texas, U.S., December 16, 2023.
REUTERS/Evan Garcia
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From Turkey to Italy to Coca-Cola cans

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Sources:  
CNN, Houston Chronicle

Saint Nicholas, the Christian bishop believed to have inspired the Santa Claus story, was born in what is now Turkey, and his remains are likely buried under a church in the port town of Bari, in southern Italy. It’s a point of pride for the local residents there. The city “is popular for three things: delicious mussels, pristine beaches and Saint Nicholas,” a Bari native who made a documentary about the subject told CNN. But they don’t connect much with the modern image of Santa, which is attributed largely to Coca-Cola marketing in the 1930s. “He’s our cult, and we don’t see him as Santa, just San Nicola,” the head of the Bari tourist office said.

Not even Santa can escape today’s geopolitical tensions

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Source:  
New York Times

In the village of Sag Harbor on New York’s Long Island, plans for a longtime resident to dress up as Santa Claus turned controversial after several people objected to recent comments the man made about the Israel-Palestine conflict at an event hosted by a local synagogue. The chamber of commerce removed him from his post as Santa and found an anonymous Santa Claus who they said would bring fewer political distractions alongside his sack of toys. “I could see why people would not be comfortable with him as Santa, who is supposed to be this jolly fellow trying to keep peace in the world,” one synagogue member told The New York Times.

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