I’m going to tell you right off the bat that some of you are going to BOO me over this post. And some of you may unsubscribe. Some of you, though, may actually find it quite interesting…
I’m weeding Santa out of Christmas at the Oliver house.
There. I said it.
~St. Nicholas Day is December the 6th not even on Dec 25th; Dec. 6th is day when the Catholic church traditionally honor(ed/s) St. Nicholas by giving in kind as he freely gave to those in need. Somehow St. Nick got linked to Christmas Day on December 25th – I haven’t found that one yet, but I HAVE learned…
~The tradition of St. Nick was brought to America by Vikings, Spanish & Dutch settlers – the tradition had spread to other countries in Europe. The Puritans and Separatists did NOT bring the tradition with them, since both groups took a dim view of Saints. Obviously the tradition had morphed a bit as it spread to other countries and then to America. Ironically, since the pilgrims were not practicing the holiday, this actually allowed it to change in the hands of the immigrant celebrators, rather then keeping it intact with it’s original focus.
~St. Nick himself was “morphed” from a priest to a “dutch-like” elf much later by Washington Irving’s “Knickerbocker History of New York” in 1809 in heavily Dutch-influenced New York. His new image was further transformed and sealed by “Children’s Friend” in 1821 and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” in 1823 (and since then Santa and his posse has grown to include Rudolph, elves and the like by additional fictional works of fancy.)
~By the 1920’s Santa looked as he does today and pretty much all that was left of Saint Nick was the name. In the 1930’s Santa was permanently melded into American culture with the beginning of a long-running series of Coca-Cola ads featuring Santa Claus himself. It was no large leap from there to the (inevitable?) commercialization of Santa and Christmas.
Whereas Saint Nicholas was most definitely a real person, who by all evidence did in fact live his life by giving and loving others because of his love for God and Jesus.. and while “St. Nick” may at its very earliest point been derived from the story of this man.. “St. Nick’s” whole ‘existence’ is based on satirical and fictional tales early on, and commercialism, advertising, and Hollywood later on, and has very little (if anything at all) in common with the Saint Nicholas of the Catholic church.
While I once said the same thing, I don’t see how we (society, Christians, anybody) can make the claim that we can tell our kids Santa Claus is based on Saint Nicholas and is nice and good because it’s all about giving like St. Nick gave – when Santa has so very little basis on the original tradition. This is something I’ve struggled with/over for years and has really become quite clear with further research this year.
We’ve been celebrating Advent for at least 5 years now and it’s something that we’ve really enjoyed doing as a family,.. even though we still open presents on Christmas Day and still have a couple of secular traditions, watch a few Christmas movies with Santa in them. I make a point with my kids to start laying the foundation early on that Santa is just a symbol, a symbol for the secular Christmas, and that’s about it. While I am not Catholic nor do I agree with the worshiping of saints, I do believe we can learn from others who have lived their lives well, and as such, I do include stories and books about the REAL Saint Nick during our Advent celebrations.
Of course the real “star” of Christmas is Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, not under a tree but laying under a twinkling sky with one shiny Star of Bethlehem overhead. The real story of Christmas is how this tiny baby was God’s fulfillment of salvation, our Savior come to make right with God things we could have never made right on our own. The real “happy ending” to the story (because you can’t just read the beginning of the story and leave out the end) is that the price paid in that last moment on the cross when Jesus’ breathing stopped in sacrificial offering was sufficient to cover the unimaginable offense of sin once and for all. And then, too, when death did not hold it’s grasp over Him but God’s sovereignty over all was displayed as Jesus emerged from the tomb, victorious. And yet the story STILL is not over, as the Earth moves ever forward to one last battle, one last victory over sin and death and the devil himself. One last victory, once and for all.
That, is the true joy of Christmas, the true focus of Advent. It is more than enough joy and glory and celebration and exultation for our holiday celebration.
Santa suit…just simply not required.
(Main source for St Nick history/info: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/ Image: Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, January 1, 1881, Val Berryman Collection from the same website.)
P.S. I penned the majority of this article in a comment on this post, which obviously then inspired the one you just read.
Update: Read more about how we fired Santa HERE.
I really liked this post. Thanks for sharing. I have been thinking about this topic as well. I can’t believe how quickly Christmas has come this year.
I also read and love the way that you wrote your disclosure policy. I tried to comment on it, but I guess you can’t, so I am commenting here.
We have never done any gifts from Santa. We read a story about the real St. Nicolas, so my children know about him and that other people pretend. But like you, our focus is on advent, the coming of Jesus. An absence of Santa does not mean an absence of memories.
No booing from this household either. We have always believed that if we invested in the myth of Santa that our children would look at us one day and think Jesus was a myth as well. Our Christmas is focused on his birth and the gifts we exchange are a symbol of giving for his birthday. My children are excited that Baby Jesus is coming (and arguing who gets to put him in the manger on the Advent calendar….) Be blessed! Thanks for sharing your heart!
Great post Amber!!
Thanks for writing on a topic that for most is so ‘taboo’. We don’t do Santa Clause at our house and quite frankly it’s challenging to know how to respond to the many, many people who say stuff….and sadly it falls to my kids to try and come up with an answer sometimes. We recently had an issue with this at gym class and my 4 yo was treated not so well by the ADULTS of all things when she stated that Santa Clause wasn’t real but Jesus is and that’s why we celebrate Christmas. What’s frustrating to me is… Read more »
I have enjoyed your blog immensely but feel you may be misinformed on Catholicism. Catholics honor saints; they do not worship them.
Blessings to you and your family during this holiday season.
We do Santa at my house..always have and always will but that doesn’t mean I would criticize or unsubscribe. I think your stand has very valid reasoning behind it and while I don’t take the same stand, I certainly understand where you are coming from. As a Catholic, I do agree with Lisa though. The whole concept of Mary and the saints is very misconstrued by many non-Catholics. We don’t worship them nor do we pray to them as some (even some Catholics!) think. We honour them and we ask them to pray FOR us. People often misuse those terms… Read more »
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Lisa, Cyn – Thanks for the comments and support. Thanks also for pointing out that line, and its shortcomings. I don’t think it came across as intended. I didn’t intend to make a dig at Catholicism, I have no qualms with the denomination at its most basic level. I really intended the line to read more like “even though I am not Catholic (and so have no reason to be celebrating a holiday for a Saint) and while I don’t agree with the worshiping of saints (so I’m not going there) I DO think that we can learn from others… Read more »
You are so right that there ARE some Catholics who cross the line. I am not a “cradle Catholic” – I converted so I had to study Catholicism – plus then I became a Catholic school teacher and had to take religion courses in conjunction with that. The discussions in our courses were interesting – it amazed me the number of cradle Catholics who thought they knew the Church’s teachings and sat there in shock as they were taught what it really says. Even in the rosary it asks Mary to “pray for us” – but many many people including… Read more »
Doesn’t “asking Mary to pray for us” qualify as praying to Mary? -Just because I am a little confused by your comment. I understand that you are implying that she does the praying, but doesn’t talking to her and asking her to fulfill some kind of request qualify as “praying?”
We weeded Santa out of our house and traditions this year once and for all!!! Praise the Lord!!! I’ve hated the lying for years, but didn’t know how to start over. We are now starting new traditions. Thanks for your article – really encouraging!!!
[…] of you know that I’d decided to weed Santa from our Christmas traditions and celebrations. I hadn’t decided exactly how or what exactly I would do this year or if […]
I am a mother of 4…and when my kids were younger we did the whole Santa Claus thing.. But when my oldest child was 7 and her brother was 5 my mother accidently told them there wasn’t a Santa Claus thinking I had already told them. My daughter looked at me and said…”.mommmm? What about the Easter bunny?” I said no…and I explained that it was part of a game of being a kid…. She looked at me and said” you have lied to me all these years?”. Well needless to say with my younger 2 children… I never “lied”… Read more »
Elaine, I wish there was a “like” button for comments. =) Thanks!!