Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus

Danielle Bean
offers up her Your Turn discussion today to allow readers to share their take on the Santa v. no Santa debate. It is actually a very charitable, rational discussion. If you've ever pondered how others handle this topic, you might want to stop by and see what people are saying.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share a little about what has evolved on the Ark as our *answer* to this persnickety question.

Back a decade ago, when we first had young children in our home, my husband shared his family tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas' feast day by leaving a shoe outside the bedroom door to be filled with candies or small gifts. It was a wonderful way to begin blending our shared Christmas season traditions and, for me, an opportunity to add another celebration of the liturgical year to our domestic church calendar. As I continued teaching at our parish school, I was privy to some excellent resources about the good Bishop of Myra, including this excellent animated video for children about his life. (Incidentally, this video led us to add others from their series to our collection---all of which have been fabulous tools for learning about the saints). Each December 6th, we sit down after dinner to share this movie together as a family.

We've always hung Christmas stockings and Santa has always filled them. Santa's only as big of a deal as we make of him and relative to the birth of Christ, he just can't compete. Then, a few years back, I was introduced to the book The Saint Who Became Santa. It is a wonderful story of the life of the *real* St. Nicholas and shows how the stories of his generous life evolved into the tradition we now know as Santa Claus.

There are many stories about the miracles attributed to St. Nicholas both during and after his lifetime:
The title "Wonderworker" was bestowed on Nicholas because of the numerous miracles that he performed by the power of God; some while he was still alive, and some after his passage into the presence of God. Among these, he saved mariners from a storm; prevented the execution of three innocent men; restored to life a young boy tragically murdered; and helped preserve Myra from famine by miraculously appearing to the captain of a ship laden with grain and bidding him to come to Myra.
-From St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
For many, the selfless spirit of St. Nicholas lives on during the Christmas season through Santa Claus and in those who believe in the possibilities of Christmas miracles attributed to St. Nicholas, even today.

So, how about it? How do you (or don't you) include Santa/St. Nicholas in your family's Christmas traditions?


Becky said...

We do Santa/St. Nicholas. We will be celebrating a liturgy of St. Nicholas tomorrow at church. We take our kids to have pictures with Santa and they tell him what they are wishing for. My hubby is big on telling the kids all about how Santa works for Jesus and how he became a saint. Our kids are still litte and they really believe that Santa brings them a gift on Christmas morning!

Michelle said...

This year we're doing a unit study on St. Nicholas. I'm reading aloud a few books, they'll watch the dvd from CCC and leave their slippers outside their bedroom door the night before the feast. They receive 3 gifts--gold foil chocolate *coins*, a religious item and a new pair of slippers.

We still do Santa here although since our conversion a decade ago, it's importance has greatly decreased and the focus is on Jesus.

scmom (Barbara) said...

We celebrate St.Nicholas Day -- it's really big at our house!

I have a hard time with Santa Claus. Since we have kids ages 5 to 18, I'm really ready to give that up. But, for the five yo, I'll stick it out. Santa is very much downplayed though, and I'm just as likely to call him St. Nick as Santa Claus.

We've always told the kids that Santa just brings one gift. Many years ago one of the boys was confused by a charity gift drive -- "why doesn't Santa bring the poor children gifts?" So, we told them that Santa brings every child just one gift. They get three in total -- because that's how many the baby Jesus received.