The management of a preschool in Austria has uninvited Santa Claus from his annual scheduled visit to see the children citing cultural differences.
The kindergarten, located in the town of Plainfeld, Salzburg, opted to cancel the event linked to the Christian religious holidays as it considered it to be inappropriate in an ever-increasing diverse community, according to the Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper.
“The management claimed diversity and cultural differences as well as some children being afraid of the figure,” the newspaper reported.
Parents of the children expressed their anger at the school leadership team for the decision.
“Outraged parents reported to the community. Nobody understood why,” said local mayor Wolfgang Ganzenhuber, who revealed he too was baffled by the cancelation.
“No one has ever complained to me about Santa Claus coming to the children. “The kindergarten plans really horrified me,” he added.
Ganzenhuber also revealed there are “hardly any children with a migrant background in the Plainfeld kindergarten,” making the decision even more puzzling.
The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) mayor discussed the matter with the director of the kindergarten who, after the public outcry, agreed to offer parents a vote on whether or not to go ahead with the event.
“Kindergartens in Salzburg are free to decide how they deal with the customs surrounding Christmas,” explained Jutta Kodat who oversees the state’s schools and childcare facilities department.
“There is no one correct way to deal with Santa Claus & Co. Of course, Santa Claus is not compulsory in kindergarten or school. What is much more important when dealing with this topic is that parents and kindergarten teachers agree and that all children have a good time,” she added.
Deputy state governor Marlene Svazek was less diplomatic. The FPÖ politician insisted that Santa Claus is “part of our culture and our customs” and warned that a “departure from this would be a real declaration of bankruptcy for our Christian values.
“We therefore just appeal to the institutions not to take this festival away from our children and to encourage them to go ahead with the event,” she added.