It’s that time of the year.
You see him on the street.
You see him at the mall.
He is featured into almost every advertisement this season.
The big man is back and his name is Santa Claus.
I grew up like any normal Western kid, loving Christmas because of the promise that gifts would come. All I knew, at least until I was 8 or 9, was that these presents came from Santa Claus. I don’t remember exactly how I felt when my parents told me that Santa was not real. I don’t recall being devastated like some other kids because there were hints along the way that he wasn’t exactly real. In fact, I haven’t thought much about Santa until becoming a father.
As a parents, Brooke and I have had to evaluate how we explain Santa to our kids. We have loved traditions of our youth and ultimately are very thankful for them, especially Santa Clause. Some friends of ours have chosen to continue the Santa Claus tradition. Some have not. We have chosen to share the truth to them and be very open about what Christmas is supposed to be about.
But, we have not necessarily rejected Santa. While this post is not about whether or not you should introduce your kids to Santa Claus, it is about the real spirit and history of Santa, the great St. Nicholas.
So we began our investigation to learn more about this guy, St. Nicholas. The best resource website on the internet about him is The St. Nicholas Center. They share a great overview of his life here:
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Reading more about St. Nicholas got me even more excited that we bring the idea of Santa Claus into our modern culture. But, he is only important if we have a proper eduction in where he came from. For example, did you know that Nicholas was a Bishop present at the Council of Nicea? The Nicene Creed is recited by the church today as a way to bring unity and clarity of the Gospel because of people like St. Nicholas. It doesn’t end there and I encourage you to dig deeper.
Begin your education on St. Nicholas today. Your Christmas will be more fruitful because of it.
My advice is to start simple and read through this website. Then dig in deeper so you can have a more proper understanding in how to teach others about St. Nicholas.
Here are five great resources about St. Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas (Christian Encounter Series) by Joe Wheeler
This is a great start to reading about St. Nicholas because it is a short biography that serves as a Wikipedia overview of his life
The True Saint. Nicholas by William J. Bennett
The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas focuses on three aspects of Saint Nicholas—the historical data of his actual life, his legacy in the centuries following his death, and the legendary status that transformed his likeness into the present-day Santa Claus.
The Legend of St. Nicholas by Anselm Grun
Anselm Grun’s simple, graceful text and Giuliano Ferri’s beautiful paintings combine to provide the perfect way to introduce young readers to the rich life of this beloved saint. It is a beautiful book for children and adults.
Santa Claus: A Biography by Gerry Bowler
Excellent and entertaining account of how American Santa came to be. Fine background of Saint Nicholas and the book puts to rest a number of common myths concerning the evolution of Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer
The St. Nicholas Center provides a great detail overview of St. Nicholas. They recommend dozens of books so feel free to check them out. Their list was my favorite of those recommended and a few others that I didn’t find on here. I encourage you to pick up a copy or two of these books and read through them with your family.
If we can take away and share one simple thing, St. Nicholas served Christ and served others.
St. Nicholas points us to Jesus, which is what this season is about.
Next time you see Santa Claus, be reminded of St. Nicholas of the real spirit of Christmas. Our redeemer came to serve and save us. And he compels us like St. Nicholas to serve, not just this Christmas season but throughout our lives.