The month of December brings everyone together. Filled with joy and peace, and goodwill toward others. For many Christians, it's getting ready for an important religious event—the birth of their Savior on Christmas Day. It's also a time when children are eagerly and anxiously awaiting Santa's arrival because he comes bearing gifts. But is Santa Claus real or simply legend?
Nicholas was born and raised into a very wealthy family, but his parents died at an early age. Nicholas rose to leadership and was named Bishop of Myra, a city on the southern coast of what is now Turkey. During a time of persecution, the Roman Emperor Diocletian imprisoned and exiled him simply for his Christian faith and devotion. After his release, Nicholas continued to give away all of his fortunes to the poor until his death on December 6 in the year AD 342.
Throughout several centuries many stories and legends have been told of Saint Nicholas' life. The chronicles of his past also help us understand his remarkable work as a helper of those in need and why he's so beloved and revered as protector. I thought it would be appropriate to share the famous story of Nicholas who symbolized the true meaning of giving.
One story involves a poor family who couldn’t afford marriage dowries for their three daughters. The parents would be forced to sell them off into slavery or into prostitution instead. But when Nicholas heard this unfortunate news, he came by their house at night in secret and dropped off three bags of gold coins to save the girls.
Today Saint Nicholas has become a secular image known as Santa Claus in the United States. “Santa” means saint, and “Claus” comes from the name “Nicholas.” American writers and advertisers created an alternative myth about Saint Nicholas, one with no mention of his history or any connection to his life, culture, and service to others. Americans always talk about preserving roots and history, but why not for Saint Nicholas? Why not tell children the truth about the real man behind the image of Santa Claus?
I understand the religious aspect behind the story of Saint Nicholas might be an issue for some. Aside from his being raised Christian and serving as a bishop, his legacy should be honored today. Take for example: Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, etc. These historical figures are significant to us today because of the sacrifices they made and their selfless devotion to others. So here are my questions: Why is that Americans can honor and treat these individuals as real human beings? Why can't we honor Saint Nicholas, a real person, in this same way?
Many countries honor Saint Nicholas,"The Gift Giver," on December 6 for his genorsity toward others. For further reading: Saint Nicholas Celebrated Around the World.