The holiday season is a time for spreading joy and celebrating traditions. But what can make these moments magical is when we see ourselves reflected in the stories and symbols that surround us.

“I love the fact that kids can see Santa who looks like them, and I think it just enhances the magic,” visitor Mona Isler said. “I believe that Santa looks like whoever the little kid looks like.”

Creating memories and representation, Mona Isler and her family were the first in line waiting to meet Black Santa.

“I am the CEO of Christmas here at ROC Holiday Village,” Christopher Bear Brown said. “I am Santa Claus. All walks of life come through here. Black, white, brown. Different ideologies, cultures, backgrounds. And as soon as they see Santa, they just melt. They get happy, exuberant, joyful. That's something that makes everything worth it.”

Black Santa touches further on being a beacon of representation during the holidays, seeing what the symbol means to not only children, but the community.

“It gives children an opportunity to think I can do X, Y or Z, I can be that because I've seen someone who looks like me be there, whether it's engineering or Santa or doctors or lawyers,” Isler said. “Seeing someone who looks like you really opens up the world for children who are diverse.”

Families say this event has paved the way to bring more diversity and representation at the forefront of our holiday traditions.

“It feels inspiring,” Brown said. “I'm a product of Rochester, New York. I've been here my entire life. Seeing them come from similar backgrounds and same neighborhoods. I think that's huge. I think that's at least a positive impact on the child.”

Finding their experience at the north pole memorable, families celebrate diversity and hopefully the start of a new tradition meeting Black Santa.

“It's not really about the big toys, it's about the small things, but more importantly, it's about experiences being out here, having hot chocolate,” Isler said. “To be around family and just to have a great night.”