I’m going to tell you right off the bat that some of you are going to BOO me over this post. And some of you may unsubscribe. Some of you, though, may actually find it quite interesting…
I’m weeding Santa out of Christmas at the Oliver house.
There. I said it.
~St. Nicholas Day is December the 6th not even on Dec 25th; Dec. 6th is day when the Catholic church traditionally honor(ed/s) St. Nicholas by giving in kind as he freely gave to those in need. Somehow St. Nick got linked to Christmas Day on December 25th – I haven’t found that one yet, but I HAVE learned…
~The tradition of St. Nick was brought to America by Vikings, Spanish & Dutch settlers – the tradition had spread to other countries in Europe. The Puritans and Separatists did NOT bring the tradition with them, since both groups took a dim view of Saints. Obviously the tradition had morphed a bit as it spread to other countries and then to America. Ironically, since the pilgrims were not practicing the holiday, this actually allowed it to change in the hands of the immigrant celebrators, rather then keeping it intact with it’s original focus.
~St. Nick himself was “morphed” from a priest to a “dutch-like” elf much later by Washington Irving’s “Knickerbocker History of New York” in 1809 in heavily Dutch-influenced New York. His new image was further transformed and sealed by “Children’s Friend” in 1821 and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” in 1823 (and since then Santa and his posse has grown to include Rudolph, elves and the like by additional fictional works of fancy.)
~By the 1920’s Santa looked as he does today and pretty much all that was left of Saint Nick was the name. In the 1930’s Santa was permanently melded into American culture with the beginning of a long-running series of Coca-Cola ads featuring Santa Claus himself. It was no large leap from there to the (inevitable?) commercialization of Santa and Christmas.
Whereas Saint Nicholas was most definitely a real person, who by all evidence did in fact live his life by giving and loving others because of his love for God and Jesus.. and while “St. Nick” may at its very earliest point been derived from the story of this man.. “St. Nick’s” whole ‘existence’ is based on satirical and fictional tales early on, and commercialism, advertising, and Hollywood later on, and has very little (if anything at all) in common with the Saint Nicholas of the Catholic church.
While I once said the same thing, I don’t see how we (society, Christians, anybody) can make the claim that we can tell our kids Santa Claus is based on Saint Nicholas and is nice and good because it’s all about giving like St. Nick gave – when Santa has so very little basis on the original tradition. This is something I’ve struggled with/over for years and has really become quite clear with further research this year.
We’ve been celebrating Advent for at least 5 years now and it’s something that we’ve really enjoyed doing as a family,.. even though we still open presents on Christmas Day and still have a couple of secular traditions, watch a few Christmas movies with Santa in them. I make a point with my kids to start laying the foundation early on that Santa is just a symbol, a symbol for the secular Christmas, and that’s about it. While I am not Catholic nor do I agree with the worshiping of saints, I do believe we can learn from others who have lived their lives well, and as such, I do include stories and books about the REAL Saint Nick during our Advent celebrations.
Of course the real “star” of Christmas is Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, not under a tree but laying under a twinkling sky with one shiny Star of Bethlehem overhead. The real story of Christmas is how this tiny baby was God’s fulfillment of salvation, our Savior come to make right with God things we could have never made right on our own. The real “happy ending” to the story (because you can’t just read the beginning of the story and leave out the end) is that the price paid in that last moment on the cross when Jesus’ breathing stopped in sacrificial offering was sufficient to cover the unimaginable offense of sin once and for all. And then, too, when death did not hold it’s grasp over Him but God’s sovereignty over all was displayed as Jesus emerged from the tomb, victorious. And yet the story STILL is not over, as the Earth moves ever forward to one last battle, one last victory over sin and death and the devil himself. One last victory, once and for all.
That, is the true joy of Christmas, the true focus of Advent. It is more than enough joy and glory and celebration and exultation for our holiday celebration.
Santa suit…just simply not required.
(Main source for St Nick history/info: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/ Image: Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, January 1, 1881, Val Berryman Collection from the same website.)
P.S. I penned the majority of this article in a comment on this post, which obviously then inspired the one you just read.