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Monday, May 23, 2022

Christmas is for Children: The Legend of Santa Claus

Christmas is indeed for children and those who remain young at heart. That is why Santa Claus remains so popular in Western Culture and it would be near impossible to succeed at cancelling Christmas and its main themes built around Santa Claus.

   What do we know about the person behind the legend of Santa Claus? We actually know quite a bit about the man who inspired this legend. The legend began centuries ago and was developed around a monk named Nicholas, who was born in the late 3rd century near Myra, a town in the country now known as Turkey.

   Nicholas was considered a holy and devout Christian who became one of the most famous saints of early Christianity. It is said that he was a man who came from a wealthy family and that he gave up his wealth and went all over the countryside seeking out persons whom he could help, especially the poor and sick. Legend has it that he once bought three sisters who their father was about to sell into slavery because they were so poor. He then provided each sister with a dowry sufficient to get them husbands. It is believed that had Nicholas not done this good thing, the sisters could have become sex slaves to their new owner.

   As his popularity spread thoughout the regions, Nicholas became known as the protector of children and when he was sainted, he became the patron saint of children. Until the Protestant Reformation, Nicholas was the most beloved saint in certain parts of Europe, and he recovered his popularity in the centuries that followed as Saint Nicholas, later to be the man behind the Santa Claus (Dutch) and Father Christmas (English) legends.

   It was not until the 1770s that Dutch families in New York gathered to make his legend popular in New York. In the following decades, St Nicholas became very popular in America and gained traction after department stores and the Salvation Army popularized him for marketing and charity purposes.

   The most memorable depiction of Santa Claus (Kris Kringle) came through the classic movie, “Miracle on 34 Street” in 1947. The famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which ushers in the Christmas season, began in 1924 featuring the Macy’s Santa. This parade continues to be popular to this day, and only war and pandemics seem able to threaten the continuance of this great tradition.

   Have you ever heard someone say that there is no Santa Claus? You sure have! But how silly can we get when people who pretend that they are intelligent seek to cancel a story that conveys the message of love for others, particularly the poor and children, by giving gifts at this time of the year. The notion that an old, loving, fat man comes once a year to give gifts to children he does not know personally is so precious that it boggles the mind to think that people would object to that concept.

   Then, the messages about Santa that come through our very popular Christmas songs remind children that they need to be nice and not naughty if they want to be gifted on Christmas Day. Remember this song: “He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice; he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been good or bad, so be good for goodness sake!” What a teaching tool for morals!

   My wife told me sometime ago that the old ways of teaching right from wrong were very significant to her upžringing. In those ancient days, parents taught us that there was an invisible eye (the eye of God) watching over our behavior even when they were not present. This eye was able to check the behavior of the children of yesteryear in a very, very effective way. And, this Christmas song about telling children that there was a reward for good behavior, all year round, that was checked by the invisible eye of God— perhaps through Santa Claus— was indeed a powerful teaching tool for governing behavior. Not much is taught to children these days about the reward promised for good behavior, except through this little song about Santa Claus coming to town bearing gifts, mostly for well-behaved children. That is also a very good thing, in my judgment.

   So, Santa offers much to the message of Christmas. He replaces the Three Wise Men of the East as the bringer of gifts to children. Of course, we know that parents are his “chief elves,” that is why the wrong boy in another song, was right when he said, “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.” He surely knew what he saw. Those two conspirators were doing Santa’s work and the child caught them celebrating it.

   Therefore, do not fail to keep those you love happy this Christmas by the sharing meaningful gifts, especially with our children who waited all year for their surprise. Please have a Happy, Merry Christmas and a Bright and prosperous New Year.

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