It’s that time of year again… P&S have brought out the bruders, House of Fashion’s been fortifying the checkout lines and Keells is playing Wham! on loop. Christmas has officially come to the island.
But what does Yuletide in the tropics bring beside brandy butter binges and skimpy nevergreen trees?
Scary Sri Lankan Santa.
The good St Nick as depicted in Western film, song and greeting card is a ruddy-cheeked, avuncular fellow, complete with bushy beard and ventricose belly; he invokes all the joy and promise of the season: the unwrapping of a new iPhone, the demolishing of the turkey, the clandestine kiss under the mistletoe.
Sri Lankan Santa, however, invokes not joy but terror. A fearsome variation of the above, he tends to take the form of a skinny Sri Lankan man wandering about supermarkets and office Christmas parties in an enormous scarlet suit.
While Western Santa is comfortably nestled in a magical Christmas grotto at Selfridges, Sri Lankan Santa can be found skulking somewhere along the Food City biscuit aisle.
While we’re secretly quite fond of our nathal papa, what as grown ups we find amusingly idiosyncratic, as children we found terrifying. The white Santa mask is super creepy. White face, brown neck and hands. It was weird.
While we admire the local effort, is a postcolonial scrawny/tawny Santa going to catch on as an up yours to the heavily commercialised white Santa? Unlikely. But unfortunately for the nightmare-prone, on the island at least, he’s here to stay.
We’d like to compile an album of the island’s favourite seasonal friend. So if you happen to come across one, pull out your smartphones and snap a Santa.