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Dressing up as Santa Claus on Purim


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 20, 5777
Is there anything wrong with children (or adults) wearing Santa Claus costumes on Purim?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. In general it is forbidden to dress us as Santa Claus. As Rav Samson wrote in a previous answer in this site about taking a job as a store Santa -“Jewish law states that a person should not behave in the ways of idol worshipers. Nor is one allowed to dress in a garment that is unique to them. There is an opinion, however, that permits wearing their garments, as long as a part of the garb is missing. Therefore, if you were to wear the Santa Claus suit with a shtreimmel and not Santa’s funny red hat, that might be a way of taking the job [of a store Santa] and still remain within the parameters of Jewish law. Furthermore, it is forbidden for a Jew to say that he is a gentile, even if one’s life is endangered. To save one’s life, a Jew is allowed to wear the clothes of a gentile. However, to dress up as Santa for monetary reward, there doesn’t seem to be any permission for this. In a similar vein, it is forbidden to wear a green hat, the type that the followers of Mohammed wear. Finally, fooling children into believing that there really is a Santa Claus is putting a stumbling block in front of the blind, and, by doing so, one adds credibility to the other legends of the holiday as well. This is a Chillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d's Name.” With this in mind, we can examine your question of dressing as a Santa on Purim. There may be a line of reasoning to permit such a thing. We find in the laws of Purim (Shulchan Aruch, Orech Haim, 696, 8) that the Rema writes that some people have a custom for men to dress as women on Purim. Even though this is normally forbidden (as is mentioned explicitly in the Torah), because it is done in the spirit of levity of the holiday, some opinions believe it to be permitted. Perhaps one could say that this applies to the Santa costume – because it is worn in the spirit of Purim fun, and nobody seriously thinks that the person has any real connection or feelings for Santa (or the Christian festival associated with Santa), it could be permitted. Even though this line of thought might be enough to refrain from rebuking another person who did in fact wear such a costume, one should certainly not rely on this to themselves dress in such a way (or dress their children up as Santa). The Rema quotes Rabbis who forbid forbidden dressup on Purim, and the Mishna Brurah (ibid) quotes major sources who are explicit in their disapproval of such actions. That would rule out using such logic in our case. Additionally – one must be very careful to distance themselves from the parts of the surrounding culture that may have a negative effect on their Jewishness. Even as a joke, to be immersed in the non-Jewish culture that is connected to another religion is to be avoided. Our tradition teaches us to distance ourselves greatly from anything to do with other religions. Lastly – if you live in a non-Jewish neighbourhood, then there is a chance that your Christian neighbours will see and be offended by your mockery of Santa. In today’s world of dangerous anti-Semitism one needs to take care to represent a Judaism to the world that will not cause any misunderstanding or tension – but only increase love and respect for G-d and Judaism. Blessings.
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