I love Santa Claus!! Today, December 6th, is the celebration of Saint Nicolas!
I recall the excitement I felt as a young child when I would attend the annual church Christmas party and Santa would finally come in and greet each child personally and give us a candy cane or a small stocking filled with treats. Then there were all the tv shows with Santa. He was so kind. Certainly, the only way he could visit every child's home on one night was magic.
I laid awake one Christmas eve night, trying to get a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh. Every time I heard a noise, I would peek out the window. My younger brother got mad and said that Santa wouldn't come unless I went to bed. I finally relented and succumbed to sleep around 1 am. In the morning, Santa had come and I had slept right through it.
I think I was eight or nine when my older brother showed me some presents hidden in our parent's closet. On Christmas day, I noticed they were from "Santa", but I clearly recognized my mom's writing on the labels.
One year when I was seven or eight, my family went shopping for another family we knew were poor. We were friends with them at church. They had a boy my age. We gathered the presents and some groceries and delivered them in our stationwagon. I remember the special feeling I had as we knocked on the door. How the mother, with tears in her eyes, thanked us and the boy, in tattered clothes, smiled at me.
Some years, in my childhood home, Santa was pretty stingy and other years he was more generous. I don't remember when, but I finally learned or accepted that Santa wasn't real.
Yet in 1983, I became Santa for the first time. My daughter was almost one. I don't remember the gift "he" gave, but we fully embraced the myth as my children were young.
We also have played or been the recipient of secret Santa on more than one occasion, always feeling joy and gratitude.
My son is now Santa to my grandchildren. Most of my grandchildren believe in a real, living Santa Claus. My son and his wife keep the myth alive, despite the lack of belief of older grandchildren. I know they go through great pains to keep presents hidden until the appointed day.
I love history and understanding the creation of traditions and myths. The version of Santa we all know and love was created in a poem by an Episcopal minister, Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. Prior to that, various images of St. Nicolas were imagined by artists and writers. St. Nicolas was born more than 1,700 years ago in what is now known as Turkey. As a priest, he was compassionate and selfless. It is said he gave his wealth away to help others. Kris Kringle, also known as Christkind (or Christ child), was a German myth and was said to be an angel accompanying St. Nicolas in giving gifts to children. Santa Claus is from a Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas (or Saint Nicolas).
Yet, without knowing the history of Saint Nicolas or Kris Kringle, or even Sinter Klaas, I recognized as a teenager some parallels between our modern-day Santa and the story of Jesus. I will touch on a few.
· Gifts – My wife and I have always tried to be fair in giving gifts to our children and grandchildren. She keeps track and tries to spend about the same amount on each child and give the same number of gifts. There is no favoritism. The giving and receiving of gifts at Christmas reminds me of the supernal gift of Christ. There is no price, it is a free gift that only requires receiving. Thus, Christian salvation is brought to pass.
· Believe – Christmas and religious traditions work and have power because we believe them. The admonition to believe is applied to the man, the myth and the magic. Accepting and embracing the stories allows one to feel the joy and excitement of the Season.
· Judgement – The naughty and nice list reminds us that we should embrace the goodness of Christmas to receive the best gifts. Parents have successfully used the threat of this list to try to control their children. Scripture teaches that Jesus will judge us after we die. The doctrine that God know us, or can see us, is also used to keep score and induce good behavior.
· Children – Famously, Jesus declared in the scriptures, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Santa also greets each child with empathy, compassion and a listening ear.
· Magical – I believe the Magic of Christmas is the feeling we feel. The sparkle in children’s eyes. When we combine Christmas traditions with Christmas devotion and worship, the magic can continue. I can still feel that magic, even if I don’t believe in a literal Santa or that Jesus was supernatural. The music and messages of compassion, joy and kindness are the Magic.
· Bearded – According to legend, Santa and Jesus both had beards. The Levites in Israel were instructed in Leviticus 19:27 to “not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard”. I’m glad we don’t have to follow that one. Also, I don’t think having a beard is a requirement to be a secret Santa. Heck, women tend to make the best secret Santas.
· Lights – When Disneyland’s castle in Fantasyland is covered in lights it is breathtaking. Christmas lights are an outward expression that we celebrate the holiday. In John 8:12 Jesus declares “I am the light of the world.” And in Matthew 5:14 he said “Ye are the light of the world.” The true practice of Christianity is being a “light” to others in both word and deed. True human kindness and care for our fellow man is the light we share, regardless of our religious or spiritual conviction.
Santa Claus has now been a part of my Christmas traditions for 62 years and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I love it!!
Santa is Real because we believe in him. Our beliefs determine our actions, and we embrace the goodness That is Christmas.
Michael Bublé – Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Pentatonix – Joy to the World
If you want to dig deeper, read this: Should parents lie to their kids about Santa?