Why Santa isn't such a bad guy...

Contributed by Leanne Guenther

I have quite a few people write to me and tell me that there's too much Santa in Christmas.  In the sense that we equate Santa with commercialism, I think they're right.  But I like to believe there's a bit more to jolly old St. Nick than the shopping malls would have us believe.

The character of Santa Claus is copied from the life of a real person, a saint named Nicholas.  Saint Nicholas was a Christian saint -- and he was very REAL. He was the bishop of a city named Myra in Turkey in the early part of the fourth century.

The most common story told about St. Nicholas has to do with three young sisters who were very poor.  Their parents were so poor that they did not have enough money for the daughters to get married. Every young girl needed money to pay for the wedding and to set up house for themselves.  Nicholas heard about this family and wanted to help them, but he did not want anyone to know that he was the one who was helping them.

Saint Nicholas climbed up on their roof three nights in a row and threw gold coins down their chimney so that they would land in the girls' stockings, which had been hung by the fire to dry.  After two of his daughters had been able to marry because of the money mysteriously appearing in their stockings, the father was determined to find out who was helping them, so he hid behind the chimney the next night. 

When he was discovered, Bishop Nicholas asked the father not to tell anyone else, but the father wanted everyone to know what a good and generous man the Bishop Nicholas was, so he told everyone he knew.  that is how we have the story and the tradition of stocking full of gifts today. 

Add gifts for the poor to your list of Christmas to do's.  Help your children make presents for others to stress the giving side of things.  Even little things like baking cookies for Santa and leaving carrots for the reindeer can show them how wonderful the anticipation of giving can be (will Santa like my cookies?  will the reindeer eat the carrots?)

Santa's about giving, hope and faith.  Keep him that way in your household and he just may begin grow on you.

Francis P. Church described Santa of today the best:

Little eight year old Virginia O'Hanlon, of 115 West 95th Street in New York, wrote to the New York Sun, in 1897, and said that some of her friends said Santa does not exist.  She went on, 'Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun, it's so'.  Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?'  And this is what editor Francis P. Church wrote ..

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

santa                  Saint Nicholas