By: Katy Wong – Ethnic Seattle
December 11, 2015
Snowy white hair, red cheeks, bushy beard and a red suit signals the arrival of Saint Nicolas and the beginning of the Holiday Season. For many children, Santa represents the magic of the season, and they may not pay much attention to who is the man behind the hair and beard, let alone the cultural significance of a Caucasian, African American or Asian Santa. For Paul Miyahara, who has been an Asian Santa for 15 years, bringing joy to everyone while representing the Asian community, the cultural significance is as big as Christmas itself.
Born and raised in Seattle, Miyahara was a U.S. Military police commissioned officer and have worked with the IRS Criminal Investigation Division for more than 20 years. Miyahara had never thought of being a Santa until his daughter, a Santa Lane Manager for Nordstrom, realized that there isn’t any Asian American Santa and asked Miyahara if he is interested in being a Santa.
“When I first started in 2001, some parents choose not to take pictures with the Asian Santa, and I would overhear comments once they recognized that I was different,” Miyahara said. “Through the years more and more parents realize that “Santa is Santa” regardless of ethnic background, and I have become more accepted by the masses.”
“Kids don’t care or don’t know who is under all that Hair and Fur,” said Miyahara. “They just know its Santa, and they are excited to see him.”
“Besides donning the costume, it’s important to prepare mentally to be “on” for the entire time I have the suit on,” said Miyahara. “Santa is jolly, people friendly, loves kids, loads of holiday spirit and happy all the time!”
Miyahara has had countless special moments being Santa. However, his most memorable moment occurred about ten years ago. He was approached by a six years old girl with Autism, who is deathly afraid of Santa and has never allowed Santa to get close to her.
“After reassuring her, she reluctantly stood next to me, and then I was able to get her on my lap,” said Miyahara. “Her parents were in tears, and we were able to get some great pictures.”
This Christmas, you will find “Santa Paul” at the Wing Luke Asian Museum Holiday Festival on Dec. 5, and at Nordstrom downtown Seattle store (Dec. 2-15) and the Southcenter store (Dec. 3, 11, and 12). He will also be at the Nisei Vets Christmas Party on Dec.13. Don’t forget to take a picture with him!