Probably the most loved by kids and the most worldwide known of all Christmas traditions is Santa Claus. This is one tradition I would like to go back to the original sources of the tradition.
First of all, Santa Claus was a real person. His real name was Nicholas. He lived in the early 300 A. D. He was a very influencal church leader of the time. He was a member of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A. D. He was known for giving to the poor and children. In fact, the Catholic Church has made him the patron saint of children this is why he is called Saint Nicholas. When he was a young boy there was a great flood in which he lost his whole family and all of their possessions. Some friendly neighbors took him in and cared for him and his needs. They also lead him to Christ. Because of this experience he always helped other children as he had been helped. In fact, that is how another tradition got started; presents in the stockings. Saint Nicholas would give gifts of gold coins to the children so they could buy food and clothes. He would usually do this by leaving the money on the table after everybody had went to sleep. One time he could not get into the house but wanted to leave the money that night so he climbed up the chimney and dropped the coins down. In those days fireplaces were big because you cooked did the laundry etc…. there. One of the girls had hung up her stockings in the fireplace to dry and the money fall into her stocking; this is why they are placed there today.
Several European country celebrated a St. Nicholas day in December, one of these nationalities being the Dutch. The Dutch immigrant children of New York told their American friends about “Santa Niklaus” in their language. This got shortened to Santa Claus; thus how we got the name.
How he got to look as he does today all comes from a very famous poem we all know and love “The Night Before Christmas.” This was written by a Christian man as a bed time story for his daughter. He later published it and became very wealthy. With his wealth he bought several large land tracts on the island of Manhattan. One of these land tracts he gave for the starting of a seminary where he later became a professor. This seminary always had a Christmas drama with songs that were written by the professor and students. The Christmas Carol that is still heard today (in fact our choir sang it last year and again this year) “We Three Kings” came from one of these dramas.
I know some people have trouble with Santa Claus. I always try to tell children that Santa Claus was a real person, and the story behind why he gave gifts to children. I try to avoid the commercialism that has taken place now, and point back to the original and all the way back to Christ.