From tales of long ago, kids still immediately hop to their best behavior or give their most endeared ‘I’m sorry’ look, when parents use the phrase, “I’m gonna tell Santa that you were bad.”
Santa Claus, also known as St. Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, is a legendary figure who is said to bring gifts to the homes of “good little children” on Christmas Eve.
But, who are they and where did they come from?
Some suggest it’s a made-up legend, while others say from a true story in Turkey. Others say that Santa is a friend of God. Many wonder if these are just one Santa. Parents from all over the country are unsure if it’s even right to lie to their kids about such a thing. Can it be a good thing or are the parents bad by telling a fib about Santa?
History states that the legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to an actual monk or Roman Catholic Saint, named St. Nicholas, who was born in modern-day Turkey, around 280 A.D. People admired him for his goodness, kindness and wisdom and he became an often-told legend. He was a Christian and one who seemed to walk the footsteps of Jesus’ trail.
He was also a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him with a lot of money. He shared it by giving gifts to children. St. Nicholas did not like to be seen when he gave away presents, so the children of the day were told to go to sleep quickly or he would not come.
In the year 303, the Roman emperor Diocletian commanded all the citizens of the Roman Empire, to worship him as a god.
Christians believed in one God and one God alone. Nicholas was a Christian so his conscience would not allow him to obey the Emperor’s order. Angered by his and other Christian’s stubbornness, Diocletian warned the Christians that they would be imprisoned and then he had his orders carried out and Nicholas was imprisoned for over five years in a small cell.
History shares that Nicholas suffered from cold, hunger and thirst, but he never wavered in his beliefs. In 313, when Diocletian resigned, and Constantine, who was the first Roman Christian Emporer, came to power Nicholas was released, and he was allowed to return to his post as Bishop of Myra.
There, he continued his good works, and it is said that he became even wiser and more understanding by the time of his death on December 6, 343.
It is said that in the eyes of the Catholics, a Saint is someone who has lived such a holy life that, after dying and going to heaven, he or she is still able to help people on earth. They often become patron to different groups of people – one such was children, and many legends sprang up to explain his presence.
Therefore, his legacy lived on. By 450, churches in Asia Minor and Greece were being named in honor of him. By 800, he was officially recognized as the saint by the Eastern Catholic Church, and in the 1200s, December 6 began to be celebrated as Bishop Nicholas Day in France.
Facts state that by the end of the 1400s, St Nicholas was the third most beloved religious figure, after Jesus and Mary and that there were more than 2,000 chapels and monasteries named after him.
In later days, books and songs were written, expanding on the ‘jolly’ character of Saint Nicholas, even saying that he comes down the chimneys to deliver the gifts.
It has been documented that the first Dutch emigrant ship had a figurehead of St. Nicholas; that St. Nicholas Day was observed in the colony and that the first church was dedicated to him.
Most people know that the first capital of the United States of American was not in Virginia, but in New York, where George Washington first prayed. It is also the only building that was left standing in that area during the tragedy of 911. Therefore, American history shares that after the American Revolution; many New Yorkers remembered with pride their colony’s nearly-forgotten Dutch roots and promoted St. Nicholas as “patron saint” of both society and their city.
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25 was in 336, during the rule of Constantine. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th of each December.
Many scholars have believed the birth of Jesus Christ to have been between 6 and 4 BC, and that Jesus’ preaching began around AD 27–29 and lasted one to three years. They also calculate the death of Jesus as having taken place between AD 30 and 36.
What was Jesus all about on Christmas? Giving. The Bible says that is it better to give than to receive. It says if you have a need, to just ask. Then He freely gives.
So, who is jolly ole’ Santa or St. Nicholas and is he alive? Here are what some believe.
Nancy Fisher: “When I think about Santa. I think of those gifts we get as children that we often cherish or hold dear even as an adult because of them coming from someone very dear to our hearts. Now when I think of Santa, and things about Christmas, I think of the true meaning and how the best gift of Christmas is yet to come: ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’”
Joe Doyle; “When it came to Santa and our kids we always told them the truth. We use the Veggie Tales movie about the spirit of Saint Nick, telling them about who Saint Nick was but letting them know that the presents always came from us. We always made Christmas about Jesus and his birth though. We even take a cupcake, light it and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before we would open presents every Christmas. Our focus would always be on Jesus and his birth. Happy Birthday, Jesus.”
Cheryl Tanner: “A fictional person told about where parents lie to their children. Lies like, you better be good or you’re not going to get any toys, or, he’s watching you sleep (creepy). It might be the only time they see their parents help people or give to those less fortunate, when it’s something that should be done all year round.”
Michelle Songer: “Santa is the feeling you get inside when you give. It’s a child’s eye on Christmas morning, the tear in someone’s eye when an unexpected loved one comes home, or someone lonely for some company is invited to Christmas dinner. It’s giving of yourself and not expecting anything in return. Our Heavenly Father gave His life for us to live; a gift unlike any other. We have always asked Santa for that special gift, why not ask Jesus for eternal life…?”
Kids still believe, and some adults still hope. Yet most know that Santa Claus is more than a human being. He is the living symbol of selfless giving and immeasurable love that is handed down from one generation to another.
Want to be an extension of Santa or Jesus this year? There are kids in need in Craig County that won’t have much on Christmas morning. Some don’t even have a tree to put it under.
Call the local Social Services Department at (540) 864-5117 Ext. 242 or contactRebecca.Horton@dss.virginia.gov for more information. Your HOHOHO will get bigger just like the Grinch’s heart. It grew three sizes that one day!
And, just in case you want to call Santa to get a voice recording of him encouraging kids to leave their list of Christmas wishes, his number is (951) 262-3062.