Christmas is a day recognized by Christians as the birth of Jesus Christ. Although not as important religiously as important as Easter it certainly has come to be the most anticipated event in many countries. It also combines the story of Saint Nicolas who is the patron saint of children and was a well-known priest who would bring gifts to children and help the poor. He preferred not to be seen leaving the gifts so families told their children to go to sleep or no gifts would come. Saint Nicholas’s legend grew and he was seen as a generous and kind man who was later put in prison for five years as he was mistakenly identified as a God and lost favour with people who believed in only one God. The Puritans of North America refused to believe in Saint Nicholas and renounced his name but in time history brought us Santa Claus.
How have these two stories brought about the Christmas we see in 2013? I had the opportunity to be Santa Claus in a small elementary school and give my best imitation of a jovial ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ to the excited faces of the young children. I was greeted by smiles, hugs and many I love you Santa from the youngest of the children. In the time I had to talk to the children it was evident as the children got older their belief in Santa diminished but their desire for gifts increased. The younger children were excited to talk about leaving of the cookies, drinking milk and how I got those pesky reindeer to fly. It is perhaps one of the greatest questions that young children ask, ‘Is Santa Claus real?’ The spirit of Saint Nicholas is certainly alive and well as gift giving and awareness to help those in need during the Christmas season is evident in the stories and through people’s generosity to donate time and money to make sure all children find something under their tree.
The religious part of Christmas somehow is seemingly becoming less of what Christmas is about. Media and musicians seem more inclined to move towards the Saint Nicholas story. Commercialization in 2013 has reached new heights as buying presents not only for children but everyone has become the new meaning of Christmas. I heard a story of a woman who shared a story of how she cried for days because the gift she received from her husband just wasn’t what she wanted. There is no doubt along with the joy of Christmas comes the stresses of buying gifts and wondering if buying the wrong gift will put you in the dog house with Snoopy.
As I have gotten older and my now adult sons are reluctant to dress up in their Santa Suits that made them so cute, Christmas for me has become more about being with family and reconnecting with those that our busy life seems to preclude. A celebration of food and our own traditions with those that we love have become the meaning of Christmas. The cooking of the turkey, calling my brother to exchange recipes as we try to make that perfect stuffing, or the phone call to family that have chosen the sunshine over the cold and snowy winters days of Winnipeg.
In the end Christmas, the holiday season has become many things. Some of them commercial as for many businesses the Christmas season may make or break the business. It is for Christians a time of coming together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. There are not many better stories than of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus in a stable. It is about family, community and a time for generosity not only of spirit but of deeds. It is a time of stress for those who have lost loved ones or may find themselves alone on Christmas Day. It has been about traditions and discovering new traditions as our multi-cultural society finds a way to respect everybody’s beliefs.
Most of all though it is about us finding peace. Peace for ourselves and others. Becoming the spirit of Saint Nicholas where we show kindness to children and those in need. Whether you are Christian or not the belief in the teaching love and kindness and generosity of heart, body and soul as we strive towards understanding it is better to give than receive. So despite all the media hype and commercialization we find in the holiday season, Christmas is still about ‘Peace on Earth and Goodwill.’
Wishing everyone a joyous and wonderful Christmas season. May you all find your inner peace.
- Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas- the origins of Father Christmas (dailyinkling.com)
- Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? (developingkingdomleaders.com)
- Santa Claus, Father Christmas or Saint Nicholas (authorfoleywestern.wordpress.com)