Microsoft Removes Christmas Hat from MIT Licensed VS Code, Closes Issue Tracker To Silence Complaints

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Microsofts Visual Studio Code editor is free software under the MIT license. It is tightly controlled by Microsoft nevertheless. VS Code had a cute little Santa hat on an icon in the lower right corner to celebrate the Christmas holiday. A German living in Norway found this offensive on behalf a group he does not belong to for reasons that are not applicable and demanded that Microsoft remove the offending Santa hat from VS Code. Microsoft compiled and drama ensued.

There is a lot of drama around Microsoft's VS Code right now.

The stated 白左 reasons given for the red Santa hat's supposed offensiveness is that it somehow a religious symbol. The confusion comes from the historical blending of European Saint Nicholas celebrations and the celebration of nissen (Norwegian) / tomten (Sweden) in Scandinavia. Both of these celebrations took place around the same time. They eventually became one and the same celebration.

Norwegian Nisser.jpg
Very old Norwegian "nisse" figures. They have the red hat, later adopted by the American Santa Claus, but not the rest of the red custome which is unique to the American Santa.

Nissen/Tomten was a part of Nordic folklore centuries before Coca Cola commercialised the American Santa Claus in the 1930s. Coca Cola took nissens red hat and added a red suit, unique to the American Santa Claus, when they used the figure in their sugar-water advertisements. Nissens Scandinavian origins is the reason why the American Santa Claus is said to live on the North Pole. The Sámi people in the Northern parts of Norway and Sweden (and Finland) have a life-style which is heavily intertwined with reindeer. That's the origin of the American Santa Claus's reindeer.

The word "gnome" is probably the word closest to the Scandinavian Nisse/Tomte. It's not the same thing but it's close. Many American garden-gnomes look similar to the Scandinavian Nisse.

A Confused Grinch

The Santa hat complaint in VS Code issue #98268 on Microsoft GitHub.

A web developer who can't tell a red hat from a swastika filed this bug on Github on December 18th:

"The Santa Hat on vscode insiders and pushing of religion is very offensive to me, additionally xmas has cost millions of Jews their lives over the centuries, yet even if that was not the case, pushing religious symbols as part of a product update is completely unacceptable. Please remove it immediately and make it your top priority. To me this is almost equally offensive as a swastika."

Web developer Christian Schiffer, VS Code issue #98268

Microsoft quickly bowed to the grinch and promised to remove the "offending" red hat from VS Code.

As we already explained above: The red Santa Claus hat has nothing do to with religion. It is, in modern times, a simple symbol of compassion, kindness and happy Christmas celebrations with friends, family and loved ones. People who find those values problematic can seek help on their own instead of bothering their surroundings with their negativity.

Tux with a red Christmas hat in SuperTuxKart.

This is not the first time someone 白左 has demanded that a Santa Hat is removed from a free software project. VLC has had a iconic Santa hat from day 354 to the end of the year since 2009. Similar complaints were filed in VLCs forum in 2011. A lead VLC developer rightly pointed out that "If you don't want VLC, don't use it." and the Santa Hat stayed. The free software kart game SuperTuxKart has placed a red hat on the various in-game characters for many years. That project has, luckily, so far been spared silly complaints about it.

Sulittleli with powertools christmas.jpg
Taiwanese sensation Sulitteli, happy with power-tools and a red Christmas hat.

Drama Light Ensued

Some hacker named Anonymous was quick to write about the Santa Hats removal on obscure forums only known as /g/ and /pol/ on a fringe underground website called 4chan. The result was that a lot of free software users decided to submit a lot of similar and related issues to VS Codes issue tracker.

Microsoft GitHub: No-no filing issues which makes us lose additional face.

Microsoft responded to the issues relating to the Santa Hat's removal by closing the VS Code issue tracker on GitHub. They also closed and removed several fine bug reports such as:

We could go on, but you get the idea.

The moral of this story is that free software projects, corporate or community controlled, may want to hesitate and actually think for a few seconds before submitting to one 白左 persons unreasonable demands to change a software project. VS Code is a MIT licensed project wholly controlled by Microsoft so it matters little to them if they upset a large amount of people by doing something both stupid and unpopular in order to please one ill-informed bully. A lot of other free software projects do not have a large multinational corporation funding development. Upsetting everyone sane by catering to a Christmas grinch could easily result in reduced user-base, dwindling donations and developers who get fed up and leave. It's not a good idea.