Why Does Santa Play a Saxophone?

Mark Fisher from the Washington Post reported on eight fascinating facts on Christmas in China, which included a ‘war on Christmas’ and Santa’s sisters. Fisher also reports on why Santa Claus in China is always depicted playing a saxophone: The nature of Christmas in China is fascinating, as I explored in an article yesterday, but it can also be baffling. In my post on eight fascinating facts about Christmas in China, number six was a trend that has long puzzled me: Chinese depictions of Santa Claus, of which there are a great many, very often portray him as playing the saxophone. There are posters of sax-playing Santa, cardboard cut-outs, plastic figurines, mall mannequins, all jamming on the sax. It turns out that I’m not the only one curious about this trend: it also seems to puzzle a number of Chinese. Beijing-based journalist Helen Gao (who authored afantastic Atlantic article on Christmas in China) emailed that Sina.com, a widely-read Chinese news website, had translated my article into Chinese, changing the headline to “Foreign Media Looks at China: Confusions on Why Santa Plays Saxophone.” Sina also deleted a sentence where I had noted China’s persecution of Christians and an entire section on the Taiping Rebellion. Perhaps even worse, they did not provide their many readers a link back to the Washington Post site. The Sina.com translation of my article received 400 responses, many of them debating the question of why Chinese Santas so often carry saxophones. Out of all those, Helen writes, “no one seems to know the answer.” When she emailed again, 30 minutes later, the number of responses had almost doubled to 700. By contrast, the original Washington Post blog item has received seven comments. Helen’s theory echoes one of my commenters, mlouisa70394, who suggests it may have to do ...
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