It was in college when I was first introduced to the anti-Santa doctrine of Christianity. If you just rearrange one letter, you spell someone we all agree is evil. Jesus is the reason for the season, not Santa Claus. Why does Santa get all the attention? Who is Santa Claus?
Why Does He Have So Many Names?
Santa Claus came into being in the United States around the 1800’s through a famous poem, “A Visit from St Nicholas.” The Dutch pronunciation of Saint Nicholas was, Sinterklaas. This was changed to the more American pronunciation of Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas, who we will look at more later, was celebrated in Catholic traditions on December 6. He was often affiliated with Christmas which they started celebrating on December 25 as soon as 5th century. When the Protestant reformation came along, in rebellion to all things Catholic they tried to remove Saint Nicholas from Christmas. Martin Luther propagated the idea of the Christ-child as being the symbol. This word was Christkindl, which has now been given to Santa Claus, as Kris Kringle.
Who Was Saint Nicholas?
Why did the Catholic venerate Nicholas? Who was he? Nicholas of Myra was born in present day Turkey. He was a devout follower of Jesus from an early age. When is parents died while he was young due to an epidemic, they left him considerable wealth, which he used to give to the poor.
His fame raised to saintly status when he heard of a poor man who had three daughters. Their lack of wealth meant they had no dowry for potential husbands and would probably lead to a life of slavery or prostitution for them. On three separate occasions, Saint Nicholas came by their house at night to throw a bag of gold through their window. Each bag was said to have landed in the stockings that were hung up to dry. This money was used for each girls dowry and giving them better life.
While this is the most commonly told story of Saint Nicholas, there are many other legends about him. He is said to have prayed for the sea to be calm one night as he was traveling by boat, and the waters and weather changed immediately. He also supposedly came upon an inn where three children who were killed by an terrible butcher earlier in the night. God told Saint Nicholas of the event, and he prayed them back to life.
Finally, he went to the Council of Nicaea, the very first ecumenical council. There was a heresy being circulated that Jesus was not equal in divinity to God the Father. After listening the statements from the leading heretic for some time, Saint Nicholas got up, crossed the room, and slapped him across the face. He fought against this heresy saving doctrinal truths which were then put in the Nicene Creed, of which he was a signer.
Can Christians Embrace Santa Claus?
One thing I dislike about Christianity is we are too often known for what we oppose more than what we embrace. Modern-day Santa Claus is known to represent Christmas by loving children, giving gifts, and spreading joy. His predecessor, Saint Nicholas, lived a life of devotion to Jesus, in which he was persecuted and imprisoned by the emperor Diocletian as a leader of Christianity. Santa’s other name, Kris Kringle, is an homage to the Christ-child, God’s gift to the world.
I understand that most people miss these connections. Most people already miss God’s blessings to them, but God still blesses them; He still loves them. Let’s us be known for increasing the celebration of what Santa Claus represents. Let us celebrate children, generously give gifts, and choose to spread joy where ever we go. The world really needs this.