Not seeing Mr Claus in the Santa Parade has left a town divided over spotting a Māori man wearing a korowai in the sleigh.
There has been backlash on social media after the main float in Nelson's Santa Parade didn't feature a traditional Santa.
Instead, yesterday's parade featured a Māori man wearing a korowai, rather than the typical red suit, white hair and beard.
One local resident Diane Chandler said she was disappointed not to see the usual man in a red suit at the parade.
"How can you have a Santa Parade without Santa?" she told Morning Report.
"Santa just needs to wear the costume. Anyone can be Santa, just wear the costume. Anyone can be Superman, wear the suit."
She said the person playing Santa wasn't wearing the costume and only wearing red didn't suffice.
"He was just a person on the Santa sleigh with a red cloak and a trident hook," she said.
"I wear red to work, it doesn't make me Santa."
Members of the community, including parents and grandparents were left feeling stripped of a magic Christmas moment, Ms Chandler said.
"Multicultural isn't throwing away icons of one culture, it's including those of others.
"Santa can be Indian, Tongan, Samoan, any culture. Santa is multicultural. Santa is international in himself."
Bringing the racial aspect into it is "most disappointing".
"It's the death of Santa," she said.
On Facebook, some locals said their children were disappointed not to see Santa at the parade, and some were asking where Santa was.
Nelson City Councillor Matt Lawrey said the organisers of the parade just wanted to put on a good show.
"I applaud the organisers for trying to give the parade a more New Zealand flavour. But, I also understand why some of the children who went along expecting someone in a Santa suit were disappointed.
"I mean, I think it's a shame that some people have been so quick to fire into a social media rage."
Santa parade director Mark Soper said the man who acted the part was not meant to have removed his Santa hat.
Mr Soper said Rob Herewini agreed at the last minute to stand in as Santa, after the usual actor pulled out and he told parade organisers there would be a Māori Santa.
The Santa Parade Trust, who organises the parade, have now apologised to anyone who was disappointed it failed to feature a traditional Santa and says they are truly sorry the parade didn't live up to expectations.
Mr Soper said a lot has been learned, and they hope to build on the multi-cultural elements, but also return to a traditional Santa next year.
Mr Herewini has declined to comment, but said through a colleague, he took off the hat simply because he was hot.
Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese was overseas.