Everyone is falling in love with the Mall of America's first black Santa.

Larry Jefferson-Gamble's transformation into Santa Claus began when he was just 12 years old. He remembers that Christmas fondly.

It was the year his father hurt his back around the holidays and told him, "I need you to be Santa for me," the Washington Post reported. So little Larry, excited about his new role, went to work gathering all the presents for his 11 siblings and put them under the tree. It was a big moment.

Many years later — 17 of which were spent playing the jolly old man in a big, red suit at the professional level — Larry has taken on the gig of a lifetime.


"Santa Larry" will be the first black Santa at Minnesota's Mall of America, the largest shopping center in the U.S., this holiday season.

For the first time in the mall's 24-year history, one of the jolly men giving out hugs, smiling for photos, and listening to plenty of wish lists from kids won't be white.

The Mall of America isn't the exception, either. At the national scale, Santas of color are "far and few between," according to Larry. And that's a big reason why he does it.

“This is a long time coming,” Landon Luther, co-owner of the mall's Santa Experience, told the Star Tribune. “We want Santa to be for everyone, period.”

Photo via of the Mall of America, used with permission.

Sarah Schmidt, senior public relations manager at the mall, says slots to sit on Larry's lap at the Santa Experience — where families can schedule an appointment in advance to see St. Nick — are completely booked up throughout the next few days.

For many people, he's more than your average Kris Kringle.

Santa Larry, a U.S. veteran, means something special to a lot of boys and girls out there — and their parents.

Jefferson says he's talked to families who've driven hours just to see him, the Washington Post reports, with one woman telling him that she'd been waiting 25 years to meet a black Santa.

Unfortunately, Santa's skin color still seems to ruffle some people's feathers. An editor at the Star Tribune, for instance, says the paper had to turn off its comments section due to nasty feedback on its article about Santa Larry. And the debate over Santa's race has been known to fire up a few talking heads in the 24-hour cable news world.

Photo via the Mall of America, used with permission.

To kids, however, Santa Larry's skin color is no big deal.

“What they see most of the time is this red suit and candy,” Larry says. Santa represents "a good spirit. I’m just a messenger to bring hope, love and peace to girls and boys.”

And when they do notice that he doesn't look like most other Santas, it's a good thing, he says.

“There needs to be more Santas of color, because this is America, and kids need to see a Santa that looks like them,” he says. “That helps kids to identify with the love and spirit of the holiday, you know?”

Most Shared
Facebook / Mikhail Galin

Putting your pet in cargo during a flight isn't always safe. In 2016, the Department of Transportation reported a total of 26 pet deaths and 22 injuries on flights. Because conditions in cargo can be uncomfortable for animals, the Humane Society recommends taking your pet aboard when you fly, or just leaving it at home.

It's not surprising that one Russian man didn't want to put his overweight cat in cargo during an eight-hour flight from Moscow to Vladivostok. What is surprising is the great lengths he took to fly with his four-legged friend.

Russian airline Aeroflot allows pets to fly inside the plane's cabin, as long as the cat weighs under 17.6 pounds and stays in its carrier during the flight. When Mikhail Galin went to check in, he was told he couldn't fly with his four-year old cat, Viktor. Viktor weighed in at 22 pounds and would have to be relegated to cargo.

But Viktor was sick from their earlier flight from Riga, Latvia to Moscow. And besides, Viktor had been allowed to fly inside the cabin during that flight. The airline staff didn't even bother to make Viktor sit on the scales. Galin was unable to persuade staff to bring his fur baby on board.

"To all attempts to explain that the cat won't survive there on an 8-hour flight with the baggage and would haunt her in her nightmares for the rest of her life, she (the Aeroflot staff member) replied that there are rules," Galin wrote in a Facebook post translated from Russian.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Photo by Kelvin Octa from Pexels

Newborn babies don't seem to do much beyond eating and pooping and, of course, hiccupping. A lot. Parenting advice on how to cure a baby's hiccups runs the whole gamut. It's recommended parents try everything from nursing to stop feeding the baby so much, from giving the baby gripe water to letting the hiccups play their course. But when your baby hiccups too much, you shouldn't freak out. There's a good reason why.

A new study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that hiccups play an important role in a baby's development. Researchers from the University College London found 217 babies for their study, but only looked at 13 newborns with persistent hiccups. Ten of those babies hiccupped when they were awake, and three hiccupped during their "wriggly" sleep. We have no idea how the scientists got any work done with all that cuteness lying around.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Ask almost any woman about a time a man said or did something sexually inappropriate to them, and she'll have a story or four to tell. According to a survey NPR published last year, 81% of women report having experienced sexual harassment, with verbal harassment being the most common. (By contrast, 43% of men report being sexually harassed. Naturally harassment toward anyone of any sex or gender is not okay, but women have been putting up with this ish unchecked for centuries.)

One form of verbal sexual harassment is the all too common sexist or sexual "joke." Ha ha ha, I'm going to say something explicit or demeaning about you and then we can all laugh about how hilarious it is. And I'll probably get away with it because you'll be too embarrassed to say anything, and if you do you'll be accused of being overly sensitive. Ha! Won't that be a hoot?

Keep Reading Show less
popular