Some parents say it takes the focus off of Jesus, while others say santa is a harmless part of growing up
Saint Nicholas was a fourth-century Bishop of Myra, a town located in present-day Turkey. He was born into a wealthy family, and although short in stature, mighty in his faith by passionately defending the Catholic Faith. Remember, in the fourth century, the Church was the Catholic Church from which other faiths would spring centuries later.
How Did Santa Claus Begin?
During Nicholas’s time, the heresy known as Arianism surfaced. The basis of the heresy was that Jesus was God’s first creation. This idea was and is in total opposition with the Central Mystery of the Church; that The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons in ONE god.
The best explanation I believe comes from Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick used the shamrock in his rationalization. The shamrock has three leaves, but all are one and it would not be a shamrock if it only had one or two leaves or even just a stem.
In his zeal to protect the dogma, Saint Nicholas stepped out of character and literally punched Bishop Arius who initiated the heresy. Due to the fact that Bishop Nicholas defended the faith so strongly against the deviation initiated by Bishop Arius, the town of Myra, Nicholas’s territory, was virtually untouched by the turmoil of the dissention. The controversy continued even after the death of Bishop Arius.
Now how did this passionate Bishop become the patron of children, sailors and, pawnshops? There are three stories that revolve around his recognition.
First, according to Alban Butler, known for writing about the lives of Saints, three young girls were facing the horrors of the brothels because their father had no money for a dowry. Bishop Nicholas came to the rescue as quiet as night. For three consecutive nights, he left a bag of gold for each daughter’s dowry. This saved the young women from a life of misery.
This is but one example of how the Bishop spent his inheritance always helping others. Saint Nicholas’ icons and statues often reflect him with three bags. These represent the three bags of gold given to save the young women and are often found over the doors of pawnshops.
Second, he rescued three sailors who were lost at sea making him the patron of sailors. Third, he revived three young boys who had been murdered by their landlord. Once again giving aid to the young, these reports both amazed and secured his legend.
St. Nicholas is known by many names…
Saint Nicholas’ feast day is December 6th, and many European countries celebrate on his feast day. Even pawnbrokers nationwide sometimes donate musical instruments for children in need.
The Dutch know him as Sinterklaas, the root name of Santa Claus. In Romania, he is Sfantul Nicolae. Croatia celebrates the arrival of Sveti Nikola, Bavaria he is Sankt Nikolaus and he comes as the bishop complete with his miter and staff.
In Luxembourg, he is Klees’chen; he comes in November so he can confirm the children’s behavior. Then he is assured that he can leave their presents for the children to find on December 6th. Thousands of pilgrims make their way to Myra, now known as Demre Turkey. The town refers to its patron saint Bishop Nicholas as Noel Baba.
The list of names is endless, but the thoughts are always the same: a kindly bishop who visits children by night leaving them gifts in their shoes or stockings and at times even on windowsills, as he did for the three young women with their dowries.
Should we as Christians promote St. Nicholas?
There are two thoughts that come to mind. For many keeping Christ in Christmas is a revered religious affair, paying homage to our truest gift which came to us that day, in the miracle of the Christ child!
However, some of us believe children need a bit of wonder in their lives. We want to see that sparkle in their eyes, and Christmas is the perfect time for enchantment. Yet, the idea of gift-giving and wonder with the bright lights and pretty packages runs the risk of overshadowing honoring the Christ child.
Myself, I can remember my cousins trying to convince me that Santa did not exist. I was adamant that he did exist. However, my argument was not that in the belief of the jolly elf and an enchanting day of special gifts and surprises. No, my reasoning was that Santa Claus was another name for Saint Nicholas. The Santa I believed in was the saintly man, the defender of the faith who gave out of love for Jesus and his fellow man. I still do believe in the love and preciousness of the season and we must all remember to “Keep Christ in Christmas”.
Can we promote Santa Claus and still keep the meaning of the season? We see Santa on street corners and in front of stores collecting for charities. This is in an effort to “feed the hungry and clothe the naked” as referenced in Matthew 25: 40-41. Is this not an effort to fulfill corporal works of mercy?
Do you teach your young ones that Christmas is a commercial day, or do you impress upon their young minds and hearts that the gift of Christmas is the Christ child? Do you incorporate traditions of faith with the magical celebrations? Christmas caroling, watching special movies that bring home the true meaning of Christmas, attending church services and visiting the Nativity scene displayed in the church are all traditions of faith-filled activities.
Many churches will adorn a Christmas tree with cards that tell us of items needed by the less fortunate, providing us with an opportunity to be good Christians. Some traditions include preparing a special dinner planned for either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or contribute their time to the tradition of helping serve at a shelter, these are but a few of the traditions that can keep everyone in the true spirit of Christmas.
I believe that Santa Claus does have a place in the Christmas celebration, but we must exercise caution that Santa is not the main reason for Christmas. Keep yourself and your children in touch with our Savior. Follow an Advent calendar, or set up your own nativity scene, but wait until Christmas morning to add the Christ child. Maybe pour some mugs of hot chocolate, sit around your own nativity scene and ask your children what Christmas means to them.
You can teach them about the kind Bishop of Myra, whose generosity should be seen as an example of godly character. Lastly, do not be afraid to say “Merry Christmas” rather than Happy Holidays this holiday season, as it is about the birth of Christ our Savior. Speak up in your beliefs; declare your stand by saying “Merry Christmas”. Do not worry about being politically correct, be a true follower of Christ.