Donning a red suit and cap with white fur lining and a buckled black belt, Santa Claus is one of the most noticeable highlights of Christmas.
In Australia, Father Christmas has hit headlines this year for his very appearance which makes him memorable.
A row has erupted after Australian health researcher Vincent Candrawinata called for a ban on “fat Santa” this Christmas.
What did the health expert say? What have the reactions been to his comments? Let’s take a closer look.
Body shaming Santa?
Renovatio Bioscience founder Dr Candrawinata has called for a ban on “fat Santas” from shopping centres, claiming that overweight Father Christmases set bad example and endorse binge eating.
He has also spoken against stuffing pillows or other materials to intentionally make Santa look fat.
“Shopping centres should not go above and beyond and make a concerted effort to make Santa look fat,” the health expert at the University of Newcastle in Australia’s New South Wales told news.com.au.
The New South Wales-based doctor claimed an overweight Santa sends the “wrong message” that overindulging in food on festivals leads to happiness.
“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”, Dr Candrawinata was quoted as saying by news.com.au.
“I want to fight the stigma that you need to eat a lot and overindulge to celebrate festivities and be joyful. Being overweight should not be associated with happiness,” the health expert told Herald Sun.
The health expert also has a problem with the Christmas tradition of keeping milk and cookies for Father Christmas.
“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 told news.com.au.
Dr Candrawinata also claimed that his remarks come 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,” the health expert was quoted as saying by news.com.au.
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Backlash on call to ban ‘fat’ Santas
Dr Candrawinata has sparked a major row with his comments, which are being seen as promoting body shaming.
Dr Marny Lishman, a Perth-based health and community psychologist, said that the controversial claims “open a can of worms in regards to body-shaming”, as per PerthNow.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Dr Lishman was quoted as saying by The West Australian.
“To be focusing on a physical body part or an aspect of a person’s body, shaming them for that and making it bigger than Ben Hur, it’s silly and not nice for other people. It takes you on a body-shaming tangent when it shouldn’t be about that,” she added.
Dr Lishman said people should be “left alone” to experience “happiness, tradition and joy” during the festivities, especially considering the psychological toll of the past years.
Another expert weighed in on the controversy.
Perth author and body positivity advocate Heidi Anderson told The West Australian, “It feels like fat-shaming Santa”.
“It doesn’t matter what he looks like. We need to focus on the person, and Santa brings joy. He brings people together, he is the Christmas miracle. It’s like we’re focusing on just the body and not what he brings to other people,” Anderson argued.
Peter Hogg, a Santa entertainer who had donned the costume for over 12 years, stated that the idea of a “skinny Santa” was “ridiculous”.
“A skinny Santa takes away from the mystery and mystique of Santa Claus throughout the ages,” he told Indy100.
Hogg said that Santas need to be strong as they have to hold many children throughout the day. He also claimed that he has never heard that his fellow Santa entertainer colleagues became ill or developed health issues due to their weight.
Hogg asserted that Father Christmas is “a bit round” and not obese, adding that he should remain that way, reported Indy100.
With inputs from agencies
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