December 6 – Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. St. Nicholas is known for being the Saint of the Sailors because of his great prayers to God to help the seamen who were faring the dangerous waves of the sea.
However, more than being the Saint of the Sailors, St. Nicholas is known for his great generosity in sharing gifts to children.
How is he related then to Santa Claus? History tells us that St. Nicholas was the beginning of Santa Claus. Because of the great deeds of St. Nicholas, his generosity to children, St. Nicholas was known then to many people. His story spread to all since he was a great model to all Christians. Then, the people from Europe, who migrated to the New World, the American Land, also carried with them the story of St. Nicholas and the celebration for his feast day.
Then in the 19th century, Saint Nicholas was transformed into an elf-like man, with red jacket and pants.
From a poem destined to become immensely popular, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” now better known as “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. . . .
As the years went by, Santa Claus was given a very important part in the Christmas celebration. However, a personal reflection: I feel sad sometimes when a few of my students tell me that Santa Claus is the most important person of Christmas. Some even say that they are happy because of the gifts from Santa Claus. When they say this, I simply console my self that maybe this is the fruit of the commercialized reality of Christmas.
We should not forget that Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas became the “sharing saint” because of his great love and faith to Jesus. We should learn from him that the good works we are doing are for Jesus. Sure, the gift that we receive or want to receive is a sign of love from other people. But, we should not forget that Christmas is about God’s love for us through Jesus. “For God so loved the world, He gave us His only Son.” John 3:16
The spirit of love and sharing is the message of Christ’s birth, the reason of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus’ great generosity to good boys and girls!
St. Nicholas, pray for us!