Thursday, December 13, 2007

History's Original Santa

The Santa Claus story is one that can be difficult to deal with; especially when it comes time to tell our children the truth about the matter.

Back in 1992, I cut out an article that I found quite useful when my husband and I decided it was time to let our kids know (even if they already secretly did know) how the presents really get under the Christmas tree.

I'm sure that if anyone did a search they could find a similar article or explanation.

For now, I will share a part of the article and how I used it to tell my children about the history of the original Santa.

Santa's chief ancestor was St. Nicholas.

Legends of gift-giving and care for the young and poor by St. Nicholas, the fourth-century boy bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor, have new meaning today.

"We know Santa Claus but forget why and where he came from," says Pokojni. "St. Nicholas lived around 340 A.D., was a bishop and helped the poor.

"There is a story about three girls who were about to be sold into slavery, as they lacked dowries to win husbands. Three bags of gold were thrown through their windows so they could get married.

"That and other stories of gifts received on the sly founded the idea of children's gifts today. The Dutch, who adopted St. Nicholas (Sint Nikolaas, then Santa Klaus) put out their shoes the night before, and the good got candy, the bad coal in their shoes. [Note: I think that the author's name is Neil Ball]

Perhaps this is where the "coal in the stocking" idea came from. I wonder if anyone still uses that expression to get their kids to behave!

The article goes on to describe how important it is to help the poor and children; to be protective of our children, and to reflect on St. Nicholas' devotion to children. This presents an opportunity to give to others and help the innocents of the world.

The Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches often taught (perhaps still do?) children in Sunday School about giving to the poor and that St. Nicholas is [more specifically, was] the patron saint of children.

With this in mind, I told my two children (about at ages 6-8) to realize that there was an original Santa Claus (St. Nick), but since he lived hundreds of years ago in 340 A.D., he needed people to take on his duties. So, the tradition came that parents would take his place and put gifts "on the sly" under the Christmas tree for their children.

One reason that I wanted to make the revelation about Santa a positive thing was because I didn't want my children to think that we entirely lied to them. Bending the truth a bit? Yes. Outright lying? Not in my opinion. Why? Because the truth of the matter is that such a person (St. Nick) did exist at one time.

Many may disagree. So be it. But I thought that it was a good way to ease them from the fun of the fantasy into the reality of what Christmas really is genuinely about.

The second reason was because I didn't want them to mix up the truth in the Bible regarding the reality of the Person, Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ with the tradition and legend of Santa Claus.

I thought that this method worked well. I shared it with my friend when she was searching for the "right" time and "right" way to break the news.

These days, with the internet being so accessible, kids probably find out much, much sooner. I think it's a bit sad.

In so many ways (many, unfortunately, being negative), children in today's culture are robbed of their innocence and childhood fun much to soon.

But there is hope.

True hope in this life lives through knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

This Christmas, I hope and pray that many who do not know Him yet will realize why he came to this earth. His destiny was to save ours.


Stephen said...

Hi Christine -

I appreciate your comments on this "controversial" subject.

We of course respect parents who teach their children different things about Santa.

For our children, Chloe and Blake never grew up believing in Santa putting presents under the tree.


Because we gave them a gift card to Toys-R-Us and let them pick out their own presents, then wrap them until Christmas! :)

They enjoy the excitement, plus they know what the real meaning of Christmas has always been about.

We have relatives who are Christian who teach their children that Santa is real. That is up to them. As you said, we never want to lie to our children.

I think you handled your situation very well!

God bless you and love to you!


Neil said...

Good suggestions, Christine. We always downplayed the Santa thing. Hey, we wanted credit for giving the gifts :-).

One clever idea my wife had was to leave one "Santa" gift in the game room for them to open when they woke up. It was usually a video or game that would keep them occupied so we could sleep in.

We did have a book about St. Nicholas which was quite good and helped bridge their understanding.

The girls now say they always knew he was fake. We just didn't want them running to all their 1st grade friends and telling them that.

Christinewjc said...

Hi Stephen!

Nice to see you back here! I know how busy you are with ministry.

Your gift card to Toys R Us is a great idea.

In fact, I now do something similar with my daughter (20 yrs. old now). Since I don't always choose the best clothing items for her taste, we shop for some of her gifts after Thanksgiving. I wrap them up and by Christmas morning, she often forgets what was bought and is still pleasantly surprised.

God bless you, your family, and your ministry! Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Love in the Lord Jesus,

Christinewjc said...

What a great idea Neil! Wish my husband and I thought of that. There were many Christmas eves where I would still be wrapping gifts at midnight...then waking up so early the next morning because the kids would run in and wake us up!

Those were the days...

Now that they are 23 and 20, it seems so long ago! (And, I feel so old!! heh heh)

May you and your family enjoy a Merry and Blessed Christmas! Have a great New Year too!

Love in Christ,