The origin of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity.
After the Reformation, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but the legend was kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually transformed to Sinterklaas. Dutch colonists brought this tradition with them to America in the 17th century and here the Anglican name of Santa Claus emerged.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
The figure of Santa Claus as a jolly, benevolent, plump man in a red suit described in Moore’s poem remains with us today and is recognized by children and adults alike around the world.
Now, this brings me to another important part about Santa Claus.
Why we should believe in Santa Claus?
Fantasy is a very special part of a child’s world – and I believe the majority of people would believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. One of the oldest, most beloved and most universal childhood fantasies is that of Santa Claus delivering gifts (made by elves) to all the children in the world on Christmas Eve – traveling by a sleigh pulled across the night sky by his special team of reindeer – landing on roof tops, where the portly man in the red suit scrambles down the chimney to leave treasures from his bulging sack for the good girls and boys. What could be more fantastic than that wonderful childhood legend?
Eventually children have the news broken to them – usually by some older child – that Santa is “just your parents” or “a man dressed up”, or else they simply reach a point in their intellectual development where they realize it has to be part of the fantasy world of childhood. When that happens as part of the natural course of childhood, they just accept that their belief in Santa was a special part of Christmas when they were little. In fact, many will continue to play along with the whole Santa tradition – even sitting on Santa’s knee for photos, etc – long after they have stopped believing that he’s a real person who lives at the North Pole and knows exactly who’s been naughty and nice, etc.
What my parents, who lied to me about Santa, taught me was how nice it was to learn what magic feels like and how nice it was to have a childhood in which magic existed at least once each year. What I learned too is that even though the magic is smaller once we’ve grown, there are still ways to find it when our hearts have learned how to feel it, where to look, and what to listen for.
Do not rule out Santa Clause. Christmas gifts are a three-way street. The festival teaches your child to grow in family and global. The child learns the joy of giving and sharing from Santa Claus. Never forget that miracles happen all the time that science, religion and humanities cannot explain.
Yes, I believe . . . there is a Santa
Hope and faith keep us going. If we didn’t have hope or faith, our life would be one dismal, depressing day after another, where all we could see, literally see, is violence and heartache.
Santa is magic. He is a wonder, a miracle that happens at Christmas. Just as Christians believe that God sent His only son to us on Christmas Day, it’s a belief. Christmas is a magical time and if we stop believing in that, what do we have left to keep our hearts filled with hope and faith.
At this time of year, you will see Santa’s – yes, more than one Santa. Some Santa’s sit in a mall and let children sit in their lap and have a personal audience with Santa, asking him directly – face-to-face – for what they want for Christmas. Some Santa’s stand out in the cold, on a street corner, ringing a bell, asking silently for a money donation to the Salvation Army. All these Santa’s symbolize the “giving” of the season.
Everyday of every year, we can all be Santa. A random act of kindness brings a smile to someone who may have been on the brink of giving up in life.
Christmas has become more and more about buying gifts. Christmas should not be all about the commercialization or the hype. Christmas is about a gift. A gift of life. A gift of peace of mind – giving your time to help ease someone’s pain or sadness. A gift – one for conveying gratitude and appreciation to someone who makes your life better in even a small way. A gift – allowing a soldier to call home on Christmas. A gift of food – for easing someone’s daily hunger. And, a gift that makes a child smile. A gift of hope.
You’ve just got to believe.
So whether you are 3 or 53, this is a time of year we are reminded to believe. And, I am proud to say that I believe in Santa, the saint, the man, the mass producer of children’s toys, the true giver and the symbol of the magic of what Christmas is.
There are times when we need to pretend to believe in things we know not to be true. We know that the world is a place of suffering and hardship, and we know, too, that justice and kindness and love and such things will not always prevail against these hard realities. Myths help us to get by. The day they all die and we tell our children exactly how things are, the world will be a poorer, less enchanted place. So don’t be ashamed to act as if Santa exists. He stands for kindness and generosity, and those things are alive and will continue to be alive—as long as we believe in them.
Because you know why?
You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list,
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
O! You better watch out!
You better not cry.
Better not pout, I’m telling you why.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
Santa Claus is coming to town.