Many of us grew up believing Santa Claus magically whisked down our chimneys and left us gifts below the twinkling lights of our Christmas trees. Some of us have even carried on that tradition with our own children. There are also plenty of families who have opted out of the Santa Claus myth altogether refusing to lie to their children. Some families also remove Santa Claus from their families traditions because they fear this mystical character takes the focus away from the celebratory birth of our Savior, which is a valid concern.
So who is Santa Claus? The legend of Santa Claus begins with Saint Nicholas, a man who dedicated his life to serving God and giving generously to the poor. Saint Nicholas was born in a village in Patara, which is the village now known as Demre, Turkey. His wealthy parents died when he was a young child leaving him their full inheritance. Saint Nicholas obeyed Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:21, “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” His compassion and dedication to serving God eventually earned him the title of Bishop of Myra.
During this time, many Christians were being persecuted under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and Bishop Nicholas, along with other clergy and Christians, suffered greatly for his faith. He was exiled and persecuted but persevered through the persecution and was ultimately released. Saint Nicholas continued a life of serving God and others and doing good deeds to those who least expected it. He did all of these things without recognition and did so with a humble heart and a focus on Christ.
There are stories upon stories told over the years of Saint Nicholas charitably giving to others – the poor, innocent children, and even sailors. One extraordinary story tells of a poor ancient merchant who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters to be married. Without a dowry, the daughters were destined to be sold into slavery or prostitution. On three different nights, bags of gold were secretly left through an open window and found in a stocking or shoe that sat near the fireplace. These gifts of gold saved the lives of the merchant’s daughters.
Saint Nicholas’ legacy has been carried on over the centuries by Roman Catholics as well as Christians and has expanded throughout many different countries. Many believing his model for serving Christ and his unselfish giving are worthy qualities to be remembered during this season. Whether you celebrate the Christmas season with the tradition of Saint Nicholas or not, we must all agree he was a great God-honoring man who served Christ with his whole heart. He gave up wealth and even his own freedom answering Christ’s call to serve others. Is there any real harm by bringing this man’s legacy into your Christmas traditions? It’s definitely not a sin to do so! After all, we remember many other remarkable people who have also served Christ and lived Godly examples of what it means to be a Christian.
I also want to add that if your reason for not allowing Santa Claus in your family’s traditions is because of the potential “lie” being told to your children, think carefully about fairytales and other fictional characters allowed in your children’s lives. Remember that while we may fully understand that princesses and superheroes are make-believe, our children may not understand this. I say this to make sure you are staying consistent with your beliefs about not lying to your children.
And for those who choose to carry on the legacy of giving anonymously as Old Saint Nicholas did for years, do so with a humble heart and not for recognition. When you’re children are old enough to understand the faith and history of St. Nick, teach them how to be meek and reverent when serving others as Christ served the church. There is also the option to carry on the tradition of Saint Nicholas and being truthful from the beginning of your child’s lives.
While Saint Nicholas was a great man of noble character and performed many wonderful good deeds, the Christmas season is not about Santa Claus or any other holiday character. It’s about Jesus. However you choose to celebrate, the focus of the season needs to be put on Christ and Christ alone. We can do many things throughout the year and even mimic the lives of other wonderful Christians, but we must always give thanks to Christ and ultimately desire Him to be our one true Guide.
We must also remember to be respectful towards others regardless of how they choose to celebrate Christmas. Let us not judge others for their choices to include or not include the tradition of Saint Nicholas. We are only called to judge others’ sins, and remembering the legacy of Saint Nicholas is not a sin and it’s definitely not worthy of our strife. Make your life a living example of how Christ lived and served and ask God for others to see His light through you.