Kids love him: this rotund man with the puffy red cheeks in a bright red suit as depicted by artists and the media. He’s the jolly fat man who goes around the world bearing gifts to children on Christmas Eve, pulled by reindeers that sweep the evening sky. Every bit of information on this silver-haired guy brings a lot of excitement to children, and probably even to adults who still believe in him. The story weaves like magic to children. In fact, more children probably believe in Santa Claus than they do in Jesus Christ. In fact, most Christmas stories nowadays never really tell you the real cause for celebrating the holiday season.
Concerned that my son will grow up believing more in Santa Claus than with Jesus Christ, I made a conscious effort not to decorate the house with Santa figures. Central to our household every Christmas is the nativity scene which I place on top of the piano. It is also the same spot where we light our Advent Wreath every year. I have done this religiously since he was a baby, and eight years later we are still doing it. The only time he would see Santa Claus was in the movies.
Santa – Then and Now
As Catholics, it is easy to be persuaded by the attractiveness of this Man in the Red Suit. Although his character is based on the life of St. Nicolas, a saint who lived in Myra (now part of modern Turkey) and gave gifts to children during his lifetime, the Santa that we see now is a far cry from what he was before. In fact, the new Santa Claus was a marketing strategy that was popularized by the Coca-Cola Company in the 1930s, capitalizing on the red suit that matched the soda company’s color. Although this Santa image came about as early as the 1900s, it would never gained popularity without Coca-Cola. He has become a larger than life personality during this holiday season, more than I dare say, Jesus Christ. And that’s the danger there—when you believe in Santa more than Jesus.
But is there really a Santa Claus?
Yes Virginia, there WAS. He was not a jolly person in a red suit, nor did he ride in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeers. He didn’t live in the North Pole and certainly didn’t have elves for assistants. He was actually a person who lived the Gospel and gave away tokens to children whose families didn’t have the means to give any gifts during Christmas. St. Nicolas, or Sinterklaas or Kris Kringle, gave gifts just as Jesus gave himself that cold morning in Bethlehem.
His true character and image may already be lost to time, but his practice of gift giving lives on in families and friends who give their whole self to their loved ones. Gift giving does not have to be material or tangible; it has to come from the heart.
The True Purpose of Christmas
We should always keep in mind the CELEBRANT and the PURPOSE of the celebration.
So what has it done for my kid? He knows the story of the birth of Baby Jesus to heart, the long trek and sacrifice of St. Joseph and Mother Mary to Bethlehem. With his school reinforcing the nativity scene every year at their Christmas presentation, my son has come to appreciate the supreme sacrifice our Lord had to go through to set us free. He believes that Santa was a real person and lives with Jesus in heaven and doesn’t believe that he sends presents to all the children in the world. This knowledge has taken roots, so I no longer worry if he fascinates over this jolly fat man.
A BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO ALL!