I have heard so many disparaging things about Santa that I came to believe that it was sacrilegious just to mention his name. I think the zenith of Santaphobia was when a friend told me that if I switched one letter in Santa, I would get Satan. If you still don’t get it, just move the ‘n’ in Santa to the end of the word and ‘Walla’…you have Satan. With that bit of logic, I just knew I had better discontinue shopping wherever there was a Santa; and please don’t even think about allowing the kids to take a picture with Klaus, I mean he already has a red suit, all you need do is pin a tail on him and once again ‘Walla’…you’ve got terrible ole slew foot! Then one day it dawned on my lightening quick mind that if I used that same logic with the word dog…I would get God. Or with God…I would get dog!
You’ re probably thinking, ‘Enough of the sarcasm PDJ and get to the point.’ Ok!!
In the third century AD somewhere between 260 and 280 AD a boy named Nicholas was born into a very wealthy family in a small village named Patara; located in present day Turkey. From a young age he dedicated his life to serving God. Later, the honor of ‘Bishop of Myra’ was bestowed upon him for his piety and great generosity to the needy. He was also known for signs and wonders in answers to prayer. In addition, he confronted the worship of Diana, was imprisoned for his faith under the persecution of Diocletian, and attended the Council of Nicea to defend the faith against Arianism; contributing to the famous Nicene Creed.
However, through the centuries there were many stories attributed to Nicholas attesting to his Christian life. Of course, I’m sure many of the stories have been embellished, and some can even be categorized as ‘fish stories.’ Nevertheless, often myth is derived from fact, and I believe inspiration can be extracted from many (not all) of the historical accounts of this wonderful Christian hero.
One story tells of a very poor man, who had three daughters. Creditors were harassing him threatening to push his daughters into slavery if he did not come up with the money. Shockingly, on three occasions, the poor man found three bags of gold (or bars of gold), enough to eradicate his debts. The final time however, the poor man actually caught Nicholas in the act of throwing the bags of gold through the window (or down the chimney, depending on who tells the story). Nicholas made the man promise never to tell anyone. This led to what we now know today as secret gift giving.
In addition, the bags of gold thrown by Nicholas landed on either shoes, or socks, which were warming or drying by the fireplace. This led to our contemporary tradition of pinning stockings on the fireplace in anticipation of all kinds of goodies.
Another story tells of three students traveling to Athens. On their way they stopped at in Inn for the evening. The innkeeper robbed and murdered them. Nicholas traveling that same route, stayed at the same inn. While praying that night, God spoke to him about the murders, and in answer to Nicholas’ earnest prayers, the boys were raised from the dead.
Beginning in 1809, Washington Irving, the creator of Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hallow, began to heavily commercialize Nicholas. This final piece of the marketing transformation came in 1923 when Haddon Sundblom from Coke Cola initiated thirty-five years of advertising Santa with a red fur outfit, a long white beard, smoking a pipe.
This makeover was joined by name changes. For example, it is common to take a word from one language and add it to another: baptidzo is a Greek work that was transliterated into English as baptism. So too, we find some similar things occurring with the name Nicholas. In German Sankt Niklaus, and in Dutch Sinterklaas, which refer to Saint Nicholas, yet are very close phonetically to Santa Claus. In addition, in place of Nicholas, Martin Luther attempted to make the Christ Child into ‘ChristKindl’ the bearer of gifts, which sounds very much like Kris Kringle.
Don’t worry, I don’t expect Santa to visit me this Christmas, but neither do I believe he is Satan! I think as Christians we can use Santa as a means of sharing with our children and neighbors ‘Who’ really is buried under all that commercialization…Jesus!!
Progressiveness is looking forward intelligently, looking within critically, and moving on incessantly. WALDO PONDRAY WARREN
Continuing with more evidence of to whom we offer gratitude on Thanksgiving? Once again, let the words of the Founding Fathers inform us of the direction of their gratitude:
10.On October 3, 1789, from the U.S. Capitol in New York City, President George Washington issued the first Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God," as just one week earlier the first session of the United States Congress finally approved the wording of the First Ten Amendments limiting the power of the Federal Government.
11.The Congress of the United States January 1, 1795, President Washington gave his renown National Day of Thanksgiving, which declared Thursday, the 19th of February, 1795 as a National Day of Thanksgiving.
12.The Congress of the United States October 3, 1863, as proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln passed an Act of Congress designating the first annual Day of Thanksgiving
13.On October 21, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln issued the second annual Day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November.
14.President Ulysses S. Grant noted in his 1870 proclamation:
Whereas it behooves a people sensible of their dependence on the Almighty publicly and collectively to acknowledge their gratitude for His favors and mercies and humbly to beseech for their continuance ...
15.Therefore, I, Grover Cleveland, President of the United States, do hereby designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of the present month of November 1893, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to be kept and observed by all the people of our land.
16.I, WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT, President of the United States of
America, in accordance with the wise custom of the civil magistrate since the first settlements in this land and with the rule established from the foundation of this Government, do appoint Thursday, November 24, 1910, as a day of National Thanksgiving and Prayer, enjoining the people upon that day to meet in their churches for the praise of Almighty God and to return heartfelt thanks to Him for all His goodness and loving-kindness...
17.On October 23, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer.
He wrote:“The season is at hand in which it has been our long respected custom as a people to turn in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His manifold mercies and blessings to us as a nation.
18.Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday the twenty-seventh of November as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, and invite the people throughout the land to cease from their wonted occupations and in their several homes and places of worship render thanks to Almighty God.
19.And President Roosevelt's 1942 Thanksgiving proclamation opened with a quote from Psalms 92:1:
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O Most High ...
20. April 19, 1970, President Nixon spoke at Kawaiahao Church, the oldest Christian Church in Hawaii:
"When we learned of the safe return of our astronauts, I asked that the Nation observe a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving today...
21.The Congress of the United States in 1977 ratified Public Las 77-379, in which the President officially proclaims the fourth Thursday of every November: “A National Day of Thanksgiving”
22.State of Illinois June 24, 1993, in a proclamation signed by Governor George Ryan and Secretary of State Jim Edgar proclaimed November 21-27, 1993 as Christian Heritage Week in Illinois. Among many things, thanksgiving was offered for “…the religious heritage of our state and nation…”
P.S. The information in this tidbit originates with historian William Federer
Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as
a result, they get better answers.
-ANTHONY ROBBINS, Motivational speaker and management consultant