Monday, December 26, 2011

My Favorite Santa

Ilya Repin: Saint Nicholas 
saves three innocents from 

A two-fisted Santa who was strong enough to take a beating for his faith, and could also dish one out, is my kind of Santa...

Depending on how you roll, theologically speaking, this is either the First Day or the Second Day of Christmas. While Christ is the reason for the season, Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas, has taken a prominent role.

We've all heard various legends surrounding St Nicholas, as well as the different traditions. Professor James Parker of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has written an interesting article that brings out some of the lesser-known information about the Proto-Santa, who most historians agree was a real bishop in what is now modern-day Turkey.
"He's making a list and checking it twice, he's going to find out who's naughty or nice."
We're familiar with the Nicholas who grew up rich and apparently enjoyed giving away his inherited wealth to help those less fortunate.  But as the late Paul Harvey would say:  Now, for the rrrrrest of the story...

He was jailed and beaten by the Romans for worshiping Jesus, emerging from prison bloody and scarred, but unbowed. Legend has it he administered a beatdown to Arius at the council of Nicea for the heresiarch's assertion that Christ was mere creature. Probably apocryphal, but it's entertaining to think about, and as legends do, it most likely reveals a "Santa" that is anything but happy and fluffy, but rather and strong man willing to fight for his faith. 

So let those who care not for Christianity continue with their secularized Santa. Join in on the fun next year without so much as a pang of guilt! We know the truth...

The Real Santa Claus is Worth Remembering


Always On Watch said...

The real St. Nicholas is a good model for Christians today. How many of us would stand up for our faith under such difficult circumstances?

John Carey said...

Great article Silver. This is the one area where many "Christians" seem to fall short. We need to always remember the reason for the season and where our traditions come from. For instance the wreath with cranberries which so many hang on their front doors originally represented the crown of thorns and the cranberries represented the blood of Christ. It's amazing how these once well known facts are being erased by a more commercialized version. Sad really.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great piece of history. Once again you hit one out of the park.

Anonymous said...

“Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.”

”Dear. Editor:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

115 West Ninety-Fifth Street, New York, NY.”

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.


No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Submitted by FreeThinke - with emphasis added

Z said...

I'd heard he originated in Turkey, too, I like to think he was Armenian because it as the first CHristian nation :-)
I taught my Wee Americans class before the preschool broke for Christmas and I talked to them about hos Santa and Jesus are not unalike...both arrived on CHristmas Eve !, they both bring bags and bags of gifts and love!...And neither give up on us, they just keep on keepin' on in our hearts and our lives... it's a stretch but they liked it!
The great 'coincidence' was that I'd sent a large image to the Preschool director asking her to copy it and have it ready for my class. There it was, Santa in bright red, a colorful picture of the whole Santa thing with the sleigh, etc....Oddly, I turned it over, this picture she'd encased in plastic for me, and there was the same image in black and white.
I used that picture with the kids until I spoke of Jesus' love and then showed them the color shot; "how Jesus brings joy and more color and brightness to our lives"! I asked Judy later why the two copies and she said she didn't know, just felt like it!:-) I like to think it was all just as planned.

Teresa said...

Fantastic post, Silver! It is important that we remember history, especially with regards to religion or Jesus. Thanks for posting this great information, Silver.

Anonymous said...

"I talked to them about how Santa and Jesus are not unalike...both arrived on Christmas Eve !, they both bring bags and bags of gifts and love!...And neither give up on us, they just keep on keepin' on in our hearts and our lives..."

That is a beautiful thing to tell children and adults too, Z, and frankly I don't think it's a "stretch" at all. In fact it's perfectly in line with the famous letter Francis Pharcellus Church, editor of the New York Sun, wrote to little Virginia O'Hanlon in 1897.

Jesus did not come to bully, badger or terrify us into submission to God's Truth, He came to show us that Truth is synonymous with Love, and that Love alone fulfills every [just] law.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you, Z, and to all who visit the blogosphere.

~ FreeThinke

Z said...

FT, I just saw your question to me at the Zuzu post of SF's....yes, they showed COME TO THE STABLE the other's just lovely.
And I love the line the Angel says about Sylvester in the wonderful Bishop's Wife.. "His children and his children's children will rise up and call him bless-ed" It always touches me very deeply.
I hope you have a great New Year.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Z. I don't know why I keep missing Come to the Stable, but glad it's being shown. I haven't seen it since it first came out when I was just a tot, so I have only vague memories to go on, but I remember the pleasant feeling I got from going to see that movie with my mother and father at Radio City Music Hall. They certainly were happy to have brought me there. It was one of my very first movie-going experiences. I remember that part of it very well.

All the best to you, Z for the New Year -- and always.

~ FT

Anonymous said...


The Twelve Days of Christmas is one seasonal carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

This week my ardently Roman Catholic cousin sent me this plausible explanation.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It contains two levels of meaning: one on the surface, which makes little sense, the other known only to members of the church. Each character introduced in the song represents a religious symbol the children could easily remember.

The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ.

Two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments.

Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.

The four calling birds represent the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The five golden rings recall the Torah or Pentateuch -- the first five books of the Old Testament.

The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.

Seven swans a-swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit -- Prophesy, Service, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

The eight maids a-milking stand for the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing represent the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit --Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.

The ten lords a-leaping stand for The Ten Commandments.

The eleven pipers piping are the eleven faithful disciples.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

So there it is -- another bit of Christmas history for today.

So, Merry Twelve Days of Christmas, Everyone! -- and remember, in the liturgical calendar the Twelve Days of Christmas start December 25th. The Christmas Season officially ends on January 6 with the celebration of Epiphany.

[NOTE: Whether all of this is strictly true or not, I cannot tell, but it certainly makes interesting and thought-provoking reading, doesn’t it? I neglected to tell my cousin that the tenets of our Christian faith as symbolized in the song are shared by most Protestant Sects as well, so the need for “secrecy” to avoid persecution seems questionable. Additional knowledge on the subject would be very welcome.]

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

The "real" St. Nicholas seems so ascetic -- grimly Mediaeval and full of woe in an atmosphere pregnant with incipient violence-- and yet there is a genuine spiritual connection between him and Clement Moore's "plump" -- "right jolly old elf."

What could that connection be?

The "real" St. Nick was not only courageous and willing to beat up enemies of the Christian faith, he was predominantly kind-hearted, merciful and generous.

The ancient world that was just beginning to get acquainted with Christ was a far more dangerous, far more brutal, far more oppressive place, and far more threatening and challenging to the individual than the world we live in today. If you don't believe me, read the Old Testament -- a series shockingly brutal tales of constant aggression, vengeance, mass murder, rape, looting, enslavement, ritualistic abuse of women and children in an atmosphere of wanton destruction.

By the time Dickens and Clement Moore came along things were still bad, but Civilization had advanced far beyond the days when the Israelites were wandering in the desert slaying every "enemy of Jehovah" in sight, and far beyond the time when the Romans had enslaved and brutalized almost the entire known world.

In the nineteenth century mankind finally had time for a bit of "self-actualization" by gaining a greater degree of literacy, a greater store of knowledge and in the entertainment of amiable fantasy, poetry, literature, music, theater, whimsy, charm, good cheer, nostalgia and clear demonstrations of affection for family and friends and a far-advanced understanding of the meaning of well-being. The concept of "childhood" as a special, almost sacred part of life most probably was born in the nineteenth century.

The genial image of Santa Claus, we've known all our lives -- best represented not so much by Clement Moore as by the endearing performance of Edmund Gwenn as "Kris Kringel" in Miracle on 34th Street and by the famous letter to Virginia O'Hanlon quoted above -- is not as wimpy, jejune and hopelessly materialistic as neo-Puritan, darkly pious modern critics like to assert at all. Instead he stands for hope, joy, affection, kindness, tolerance, generosity, the courage to stand up to the devious, grasping nature of crass commercialism, dry-veined legalistic thinking, and the dreary, arid, utterly cheerless dictates of Dialectical Materialism.

So the "new" St. Nick in spirit is the same as the original St. Nick. Only his physical appearance and the style in which the ancient enemies of peace, joy and fulfillment present themselves.

The battle is the same -- only the garb and the manner of staging combat has changed. And we should thank God for the refining, ennobling influence the Presence of His Blessed Son has already wrought in the world that gives us enough relief from drudgery to allow our children to entertain "visions of sugar plums" dancing "in their wee little heads."

I think when we tend to think Christ's mission has failed and that Redemption for our benighted species is no longer possible that we actually INSULT God.

Where is it written that salvation for all the earth should have come about in less than two-thousand years? From the perspective of Eternity -- i.e. GOD's time -- two-thousand years is probably less than the twinkling of an eye.


~ FreeThinke

Jersey McJones said...

St. Nicholas of Biblical lore is an interesting character, and the Santa Claus we think of today is actually quite similar (indefatigable, righteous, strong by faith).

Interesting piece, Silver.


Trekkie4Ever said...

I was not aware of the rest of this story. Truly a person the children can admire.

I had always told my boys that Santa worshipped Jesus. Not really knowing, but wanted my little guys to always remember that Jesus was the only reason we celebrated Jesus.

Thank you for this article. Will share it with my boys.

Les Carpenter said...

Legends do hold people awestruck.

Hugh Farnham said...

Like most of our history, even Santa can't escape being made politically correct.

I mean, busting some guy in the chops over a doctrinal issue? A stand-in for a 1st Century Swartzenegger.