The Legend of St. Nicholas
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland. (ref. http://www.history.com)
Throughout the years and across cultures, St. Nicholas has taken on new looks. After the American Revolution, the term Santa Claus was adopted by Americans from the Dutch. Artists and poets began to paint the picture of a jolly giving man with a red suit.
My favorite image of Santa is the praying Santa. This for me encompasses the truth and the fantasy we find at Christmas. Please understand that the MOST important reason for any celebration at Christmas is the miraculous birth of the Lord; that being made the priority, consider how Santa can fold into this time and celebration.
As stated above, the man of Saint Nicholas was a faithful, giving man who looked out for “the least of these.” He gave up his wealth in caring for others. Sounds like characteristics he modeled from Christ.
As far as allowing our children to believe in the “jolly elf” who comes down the chimney, ask yourself this: in our world there is so much joy-robbing, negative, fast-paced, cynical information and attitudes why not allow our children the magic and fun of Santa Claus coming to bring gifts? We allow our children to have imaginary friends and pretend tea parties; why not allow them to enjoy the fun of Santa? As our children mature they outgrow those wonders of childhood anyway. With the right guidance there will be the appropriate shift from the fantasy of Santa to the forgiveness of Christ.
I do believe in all that Saint Nicholas lived for and the Savior he followed. I have learned to manage the hustle and bustle of this season to make room to remember the wonder of Christ’s birth; to truly take in the profoundness of His birth that set motion a new destiny for eternity.
Think about it,