Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The real Santa Claus

Last week at the dinner table, our 3-year old son Dylan declared, "Santa Claus is BAD!! Santa Claus is BAD!!"

We weren't sure how he arrived at this conclusion, since we'd never referred to Santa Claus as "bad" before, so we probed a little deeper. Maybe, we thought, someone at church had told him this? As time went on, we remembered that Dylan had just watched "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" a couple days earlier, and apparently, he still thought the Grinch was Santa Claus and that he was a bad guy!

As we thought more about it, we realized Dylan had never really heard or seen the classic story of Santa Claus as a jolly old elf who lives on the North Pole and delivers presents on Christmas Eve to boys and girls around the world. So, last week, we watched the 1960s animation "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as a family. (We've reminded Dylan several times that Santa is just a "fun story" while Jesus is real.)

Of course, neither the Grinch nor the elf in the red suit tell us the real story of Santa Claus...

Santa Claus's roots can be traced back to St. Nicholas of Bari. The son of wealthy parents, Nicholas was born in the fourth century in the town of Patara, Lycia (now part of Turkey). Legend records that when his parents died, the young man took all the family's money and distributed it to the needy in his hometown. He then accepted the call to full-time Christian service, becoming a monk when he was only seventeen, and shortly thereafter, a priest. ... Nicholas must have been a remarkable man, wise beyond his years and exhibiting a maturity that few gain until they are well past forty. (Ace Collins, Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, 159-60)
Gene Edward Veith wrote an article in World Magazine a few years ago that reveals even more about this interesting character:
[Nicholas] was also a delegate to the Council of Nicea in a.d. 325, which battled the heretics who denied the deity of Christ. He was thus one of the authors of the Nicene Creed, which affirms that Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. And unlike his later manifestation, Nicholas was particularly zealous in standing up for Christ.

During the Council of Nicea, jolly old St. Nicholas got so fed up with Arius, who taught that Jesus was just a man, that he walked up and slapped him! That unbishoplike behavior got him in trouble. The council almost stripped him of his office, but Nicholas said he was sorry, so he was forgiven.
Wow. I'm starting to like the real Santa Claus more and more.

1 comment:

David said...

That's wonderful! I didn't know Nick was at the council of N. and most of all that he slapped arius! A very satisfying story. I should tell that to my kids next Christmas.