Sunday, December 01, 2019

Santa or St Nick

Often, as we begin the Advent Season today (it's NOT the Christmas Season - yet!) the subject of Santa Claus v. Saint Nicholas comes up. Is Santa a representation of St. Nicholas? Let's take a closer look.
Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus?

St. Nicholas of Myra was born on March 15, 270 AD and died on December 6, 343 AD. It is on December 6th each year that we honor St. Nicholas with a feast day in memory of him. St. Nicholas was in attendance at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, where the council fathers sought to end the heresy of Arianism defining "homoousios" (Greek for "of one substance") teaching that Jesus Christ was fully divine and fully human.

So where does "Santa" come from? It is actually from a Dutch tradition of "SinterKlaas" and the Dutch are actually referring to St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra! Little is known of the actual life of St. Nicholas, but traditions and legends say he loved children. In the Dutch tradition, SinterKlaas rides through town on a white steed, giving presents to the "good" children and switches to the "bad" children. There are also stories of SinterKlaas going from rooftop to rooftop and dropping presents down the chimney for the children (no word on how he got there though).

The story of Santa's reindeer was unheard of until 1823 when the poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was penned. Authorship of the poem is a bit disputed, some say it was Clement Clarke Moore, others say it was Henry Livingston, Jr. Regardless, before this poem it is unclear if completely unknown about Santa's reindeer.

The story I told my children, when they were old enough to start questioning Santa Claus, is that Santa was indeed a real person and the legend has it that he gave presents to the good children and switches (or lumps of coal) to the bad children. Santa Claus was originally known as Saint Nicholas, who was indeed the Bishop of Myra (in today's Turkey). The spirit of giving at Christmas is keeping the tradition of St. Nicholas alive and well. So you CAN believe in Santa Claus, but he wasn't (or isn't) the commercialized (largely by the Coca Cola Company in the early 20th century), but he did exist and many stories and legends have come about due to Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. We also celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6th by giving them a little present that day too - though the day of the ultimate gift to mankind, celebrated on December 25th, the Christ Mass (Christmas) overshadows St. Nicholas - as it should.

Links supporting Santa Claus:

https://www.sinterklaashudsonvalley.com/the-story/

https://www.history.com/topics/christmas/santa-claus

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/12/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-christmas-facts-st-nicholas/

And his reindeer:

https://www.ibtimes.com/history-santa-claus-reindeers-rudolph-may-be-most-popular-what-about-dancer-prancer-comet-vixen

https://homesteading.com/santas-reindeer-everything-need-know-history-christmas-reindeer/

https://www.cnn.com/2012/12/22/opinion/galloway-reindeer/index.html

Link not favoring St. Nick to Santa Claus:

http://suewidemark.com/santaandsue.htm

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