Fortunately, I discovered the real Santa Claus as a young child. Prior to kindergarten I read my Childcraft Encyclopedia. My favorite volume, was dedicated to explaining holiday culture around the world. Even then my favorite holiday was Christmas. I learned about many different customs different from my own. Most important, I learned about St. Nick the real Santa Claus. Santa Claus is the variation of Saint Nicholas. "Nick-Claus" He was a real live Christian whose generosity was so great he was venerated as a saint. Legend has it that he delivered gifts to children that were "good" passing by those guilty of misbehavior. Some of the motivation to stay off "naughty list" has remained in contemporary Santa.
Canon JIM ROSENTHAL ( Founder, UK/USA St. Nicholas Society ) says...
St. Nicholas was a real person — not a fairy, not someone who's flying through the sky with reindeer, but an actual person who lived and worked and died and had a full life. He had a Christian life because he was actually a bishop, a pastor.
Jim Rosenthal visits churches to help spread the Saint Nicholas message.
Most Americans, Christian or not are also familiar with the costars of every Nativity scene,The Three Wise Men or Magi who arrived at Jesus birth one silent night led by a star to a Bethlehem manger.
11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (Today's New International Version)
Somehow the biblical story of the wise men's gift giving to celebrate the birth of The Messiah and the legends of the "gift giving saint" led to our Christmas gift giving custom.
Children still enjoy the magic of Christmas through decorations and gifts, but where's the lessons from the original stories. The motivation to be good year round. The reverence for Christ and the principles He brought us. Like Jim Rosenthal I worry the original messages of altruism and devotion will disappear.
Believe it or not the current secular mythology of Santa Claus was introduced by a minister in the famous poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas".
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. . . .
Coca Cola forever defined the jolly fat black belted,gold buckled, red suited, white bearded Santa Claus we know today through his commercialization in their advertisements.
The current American Christmas has been sabotaged by the religion of capitalism. Buying and selling has become the most important ceremony of the holiday. Our retail industry is completely dependent on the Christmas shopping season to turn a profit and get out of the red every year. ( hence Black Friday after Thanksgiving ) There's no crime in holiday shopping. I just hope that we don't lose the original stories celebrating Christianity which inspired the tradition of giving gifts. Merry Christmas!