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Disney Parks feature Black Santas for first time in history

The move, which came without an official announcement, is a significant step toward inclusion and representation.

ORLANDO, Fla. — This year, Walt Disney World has rolled out a number of flashy new attractions special events in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

But the park also made a significant move this year that came without the fanfare and publicity.

For the first time in its history, Disney is featuring Black Santas in its Christmas celebrations.

A Black Santa Claus has been spotted at meet-and-greets and holiday celebrations at both Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, CNN reports. A Disney spokesperson told the network that the change was made in an effort to reflect the diversity of parkgoers who come from around the world and the various ways Santa is represented within those communities.

The move has understandably been met with confusion by many. After all, we're talking about an imaginary man who flies through the air and slides down your chimney to leave behind presents.

But here's why diversifying Santa matters.

The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that kids learn about diversity and racial differences through the books, TV shows, and people they're exposed to at a young age. In fact, kids can start to internalize racial bias by the age of two, according to the association.

So when children see their favorite characters represented as different races and ethnicities, it helps challenge the harmful idea that whiteness is the standard.

As children's book author Nancy Redd told HuffPost, portraying Santa as non-white is not about using the character as some sort of didactic tool. It's about broadening our idea of what Christmas can be so that more children can feel included.

Several Disney fans and cast members have shared their excitement online about the park's move toward representation and inclusion.

TikTok user @rozyqueenofcups, who has more than 900k followers, posted a video showing a Black Santa Claus atop a float in a Disney Christmas parade with the caption, "I can’t express how magical this moment was. Thank u @disneyparks for the representation."

Victoria Wade, a theme park influencer who is Black, tweeted "Never in life did I think disney would actually put a black Santa in the parks. But they are actually doing it and i legit cried because it means so much to me to be able to see Santa and have him look like me."