For the first time in 24 years, the Mall of America welcomes a black Santa to its roster of Kris Kringles. For many, this was a long time coming.
Santa is an symbol of Christmas to children everywhere and this broader definition of who Kris Kringle can be represents just that for a wider array of believers.
Landon Luther is the co-owner of the Santa Experience, which runs a photo studio at the mall. "This is a long time coming," he told the StarTribune. "We want Santa to be for everyone, period."
It was Luther who started a national search to find a St. Nicholas that kids of color could relate to. After months of searching, they found the perfect Santa among 1,000 impersonators at a "Kringle family reunion" this July.
Meet Larry Jefferson - isn't he perfect?!
Jefferson is a retired U.S. Army veteran from Irving, Texas who considers himself "a Santa for all." He is the perfect fit - jovial, gentle and he loves kids!
He signed up for four days in Minnesota, after that, he'll return home to work the seasonal Santa circuit in Dallas.
Mall of America customers can wait in line for a free Santa, or they can book a "Santa Experience" that comes with a photo package.
According to Jefferson, most kids don't even notice his skin color, they're just excited to meet Santa.
"What they see most of the time is this red suit and candy," he says, "[Santa represents] a good spirit. I'm just a messenger to bring hope, love and peace to girls and boys."
"I want to inspire them to think good things about Santa, about the world in general, about hope, peace, love." - Santa Larry Jefferson
There are just 22 days left before Christmas!