Santa Claus … love him and the joyful spirit of giving he brings to Christmas. I believed in him for a long time. I don’t remember the turning point when I went from a staunch believer to one who believed in the magical feeling he brought to Christmas, but knew it was my parents leaving the goodies. I do remember, over the course of several years, having questions … logistical questions that made me doubt the whole flying reindeer, down the chimney story. But, I never expressed my doubt out loud or asked questions of my parents, nor did I transfer any of my uncertainties to my three younger sisters.
Fast forward to me as a parent … still loving the magical feeling that Santa brings to Christmas, loving watching my children excitedly pour over toy catalogs as they carefully choose what they will request from Santa, and feeling just a tad bit of guilt as they ask a million and one questions about the Man in Red! After all … I’m kind of lying … which, as we’ve ingrained in our children’s heads … is generally enough to put you on Santa’s ‘naughty’ list! Did my parents feel this way? They never said anything to me. My transition was just … natural. It just happened.
So … we are trying, gently, to weave in the true story of St. Nicholas. When I was in college, I did a semester of study abroad in Austria. I was so fortunate to be there during the holidays and experience the celebration of St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. On this day, children awaken to find their shoes filled with chocolate gold coins, oranges, and other special gifts. This day is a celebration in honor of St. Nicholas, a real person who lived in the fourth century and was the very model of love and generosity. While he and his generosity are believed to be factual, they sparked the larger-than-life legends and tales of Father Christmas and Santa Claus.
“Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend”, by Julie Stiegemeyer, is one children’s book that paints a picture of the true St. Nicholas via a fictionalized story. It’s a tad overtly didactic (I tend to prefer covertly didactic :-)), but that’s okay, it gets the message across. And, it has a great ‘Dear Grown-Up’ section at the end that nicely details the life of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.
So … for now, we’ll read this book, talk about the real St. Nick … and hope that Santa and Saint Nicholas (a.k.a. the truth behind Santa) someday in the future meld nicely into one another without drama!