Santa Claus....is he real?? As Christian parents, is this character an obstacle or an opportunity for us? I struggled with the Santa story and the fond memories from my childhood, so what should I do? Was I twisting the truth to bring comfort and happiness? If I chose to tell this story, would my children think that all of the stories that I shared with them were false and just temporary fixes to comfort them for a time.... including all of the stories of Jesus? What a dilemma! I knew in my heart that the greatest story of all did not need to be embellished with anything!
My best friend saw the struggle and gave me a storybook for children on the real life, Saint Nicholas. From there I searched, and got my hands on as much information as possible about him! As usual, the true story was about a wonderful man, committed to Jesus Christ and to serving Him! It made celebrating Christmas and implementing the true Saint Nicholas easy and guilt free! So I put together a brief history on this wonderful man, who dedicated his life to the service of Jesus Christ. Hope this helps those of you struggling, so that you can put forth the truth of who Santa really is! Knowledge, based in truth is so powerful!
The present day Santa is a conglomeration of many cultures, customs and tales. The true story starts in the country of Lycia, where the Apostle Paul had traveled on one of his many journeys to spread the Good News of Christ. In a town of Myra, of Asia Minor (present day Turkey) a boy named Nicholas was born ( 270-310). He grew up loving, giving and living the out the attributes of Christ.
When he was nine his parents died, but he did not become angry or resentful. He took his love for Jesus and gave it out to all of those around him, focusing especially on the poor and needy. He loved to give gifts. But, what set him apart was the fact that he did it all in the dark of night, so that it would be anonymous! He did not want any credit for it and was not looking to get any praise. He wanted to demonstrate God's love in all that he did.
He loved Jesus so much, even when he was thrown into jail for being a Christian, he continued to love and honor God! When he died, he was called a saint because of his service and love for the Lord.
He died on or around December 6, 310 AD. This is why his feast is celebrated on that date. He is recognized for his great generosity and is called the patron saint of little children and school children. The feast of Saint Nicholas was abolished in some European countries after the Protestant reformation of the 16th century.
The Dutch kept the Catholic custom and still awaited the visit of "Sinter Klaas". The Dutch emigrated to America at the beginning of the 17th century. They founded the colony of New Amsterdam, in 1664. This eventually became New York. Over the decades, the Dutch custom of celebrating Saint Nicholas came to America too. But quickly became "Santa Claus", instead of Sinter Klaas (slowly loosing and moving away from the real person).
As the decades passed, Christian society wanted to bring this "children's festival," of celebrating Saint Nicholas, closer to that of Baby Jesus. So, Sinter Klaas would make his rounds to the Christian families during the night of December 24th.
In France, during the Middle Ages, 16th century, the reformist placed greater emphasis on the image of the Christ child, they called Christkindel, (perpetuating the name Chris Kringel, as one of Santa's alias'). They did this to divert the fervor away from the saint. Even in French Canada, Catholic children believed that it was the "Christ-child....Christkindel," who would fill the stockings of the good children, on eve of December 25th.
Back to America, and now unleash the notorious "PRESS" into the scene! This is where fantasy begins to blend with the truth, (sound familiar?). In 1823, a poem was published in the New York Sentinel, for the first time on December 23, by Clemet Clarke Moore. Moore brought together all of the personifications, and blended them into one character. No longer Saint Nicholas and the Christ Child but one person who now possessed all of the characteristics. This famous poem was entitled, " A Visit From St. Nicholas" . It was reprinted and translated into many languages and circulated through the United States and the world. In this famous story, he told of a curious elf who was a generous gift giver. He would come down chimneys and travel through the air in a miniature sleigh and pulled by eight reindeer called, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Doner and Blitzen.
An illustrator and caricaturist in 1860, named Thomas Nast also helped perpetuate this new myth. He worked for the New York newspaper, Harpers Illustrated Weekly. He dressed Santa Claus in a red costume, trimmed with white fur and held up by a wide leather belt. For nearly 30 years hundreds of Nast drawings depicted all the aspects of the legend of Santa Claus. Nast also in 1885, was the first to give Santa the home in the North Pole, through one of his drawings. The following year, George P. Webster, an American writer, ran with this idea. He expanded on this theory and explained Santa's toy factory and house to be hidden in the snow and ice during the long summer months at the North Pole.
Refining even more this image of our present day Santa, was another illustrator, Haddon Sundblom. He did a portrait for the Coca-Cola company, in 1931. Sundbolm made his Santa more convincing, lovable, carefree, round, happy and accessible by giving him human stature. This image would saturate the media for nearly 35 years, starting with print and then moving onto television and the world!
There are more intricate details, this is just a brief overview of how this character came to be. All starting with a boy who loved Jesus Christ with all his heart and chose to serve Him with his life, in action and deed! We can focus on that and develop and implement into our celebration of Christmas the true Saint Nicholas!! May God bless you all and continue pour out His wisdom, knowledge and discernment as you raise you children for Christ!
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