Parade bars Mrs. Claus

Staff WriterNovember 21, 2009 

At today's Raleigh Christmas Parade, Santa Claus will go stag.

Parade organizers gave his wife the boot Friday afternoon, citing worry that children wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Claus and Mrs. Claus if both were wearing red and white suits.

The would-be Mrs. Claus - new Wake County school board member Debra Goldman - can't understand her expulsion.

"Nobody is confused by a person wearing a gray wig and a long red dress," she said. "I'm disappointed."

Goldman had planned to repeat her appearance from last year's Christmas Parade, when she dressed as Mrs. Claus. Claus/Goldman walked with Wake Sheriff Donnie Harrison as he touted a program that makes daily calls to check on the elderly and shut-ins.

But John Odom, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, which runs the parade, said it's confusing for children to see two people in Santa suits. He said it's a policy that only Santa may wear the official outfit.

Parade officials even discourage people from wearing Santa hats, Odom said.

It was unclear how common youthful confusion of Santa and Mrs. Claus might be, and what harm might result from the misapprehension. Dr. Joseph Loibissio, a Wake Forest pediatrician, said Friday night that children can generally identify genders by age 3.

The figure of Santa Claus has a storied history. His real-life inspiration was St. Nicholas, a Turkish bishop born about 270. His penchant for gift-giving made him a natural fit with Christmas. The Dutch turned the name St. Nicholas into Sinterklaas and from that sprang Santa Claus, given his current form by German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast in the 1860s.

A Mrs. Claus does not figure heavily - or at all - in the Turkish bishop's story. But Goldman said she'll still be at the parade and may even wear a Santa hat.

Odom, who was elected to the Raleigh City Council in October, said the decision to reject the Mrs. Claus get-up had nothing to do with Goldman's election to the school board.

As for why Goldman got to appear as her alter ego last year, Odom said parade officials didn't know ahead of time that she would donning the costume.

The whistle was blown this year when the newly elected public official sent out a news release announcing it.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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