Over the years, Hollywood has done a better job of diversifying well-known fictional figures, despite the origin or their ideation or original image. The same goes for good ol’ Saint Nick.
The original idea for Santa Claus dates all the way back to the 3rd century and is centered on traditions associated with Saint Nicholas, a Christian saint who lived in Anatolia, which today is known as the country Turkey.
Santa’s current images were based on the drawings by cartoonist Thomas Nast. And over time, Santa has changed shapes, nationalities, gender and races in order to keep up with the changing world and all the unique backgrounds of its inhabitants.
As mentioned, specifically in the U.S., more images of Santa represented as a different race are much easier to come by these days. And communities of color have made an effort to create that representation for themselves. The Black community, in particular, has pushed to see more Black Santas, which has resulted in some of the major Hollywood shows and films featuring them.
Whether its an employee at a department store or a traditional Santa coming through a chimney, here are 10 of the most iconic Black Santas.
John Witherspoon in “Friday After Next”
In the 2002 comedy “Friday After Next,” John Witherspoon’s character Willie “Pops” Jones dresses up as Santa Claus for the kids in his neighborhood. There’s also a second Black Santa in the film, but he’s no good at all. He’s been disguising himself as Kris Kringle in order to rob the community.
Where to watch: Tubi, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Vudu
Lil Rel Howery in “Dashing Through the Snow“
In “Dashing Through the Snow,” Lil Rel Howery plays Santa “Nick” Claus, a mysterious, comedic man in a red suit who comes down the chimney of Eddie Garrick’s (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) neighbor in an effort to deliver presents. His goal — while evading evil politician Conrad Harf’s (Oscar Nuñez) crooked staff members — is to restore Eddie’s faith in Christmas.
Whoopi Goldberg in “Call Me Claus” (2001)
Whoopi Goldberg’s character Lucy Cullins suits up as a Ms. Claus in “Call Me Claus.” After Lucy ends up having to fill in for an actor she hired named Nick, she finds out just how difficult the job of being Saint Nick is.
Where to watch: Tubi
Martin Lawrence in “Martin”
In the “Martin” episode “I Saw Gina Kissing Santa Claus,” Martin Lawrence puts on his Santa hat for students in Tommy’s (Thomas Mikal Ford) Big Brothers program. The episode was the fifteenth episode of Season 1.
Where to watch: Max, Amazon Prime Video and BET+
Tyler Perry in “A Madea Christmas”
In the comedy-drama “A Madea Christmas,” which came out in 2013, Madea (Tyler Perry) heads down to a small town with her niece, Eileen, (Anna Maria Horsford) to surprise Eileen’s daughter Lacey (Tika Sumpter). While there, Madea ends up being a Santa Claus for children in the area.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Sling TV, Apple TV, Google Play or YouTube
Tracee Ellis Ross and Reggie Hayes in “Girlfriends”
Moving on to another sitcom is Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) and William (Reggie Hayes) in the “Girlfriends” episode “Santa Vs. Monica.” Joan puts on the Santa suit for Maya’s son Jabari (Kendré Berry) after William is forced to decide between playing Santa or attending an office party for his girlfriend Monica (Keesha Sharp). The episode the eleventh episode of Season 3.
Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Philo and Pluto TV
Keith David in “Christmas in Compton”
In “Christmas in Compton” (2012) Keith David plays Big Earl, the owner of a Christmas tree lot in Compton, California. When his music producing son Derrick (Omar Gooding) gets into trouble with major record label executive Tommy Maxwell (Eric Roberts) over mishandled profits — a week before Christmas — Earl jumps in to save his son’s life and his career.
Where to watch: Tubi, Roku
Morris Chestnut in “The Perfect Holiday”
Gabrielle Union plays Nancy in “The Perfect Holiday” (2007). She’s a divorced mother of three, whose youngest child Emily (Khail Bryant) enlists in a department store Santa Claus named Benjamin (Morris Chestnut) to bring a smile to her face. What they don’t is that they’re the love they’ve both been looking for.
Where to watch: Sling TV, YouTube, Google Play and Amazon Prime Video
Mekhi Phifer as Gerald in “This Christmas”
Mekhi Phifer gets his jingle all the way on with his love interest Kelli (Sharon Leal) in the 2007 film “This Christmas,” which is centered on the Whitfield family’s first family gathering in four years.
Where to watch: Sling TV, Peacock, Fubo TV, Hulu
Faizon Love as Santa Charles in “Santa Games”
Faizon Love plays beloved mall Santa Claus, Santa Charles, in the 2022 film “Santa Games.” When Charles decides it’s time for him to retire the big, red suit, he begins interviewing potential replacements, which turns into a full-blown competition.
Where to watch: Hulu