Santa (Santa Claus), otherwise known as Saint Nicholas was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop who was famous for giving generous gifts to the poor and saving young women from prostitution. He was very religious, and devoted his life to Christianity. The act of gift-giving to children was done in his honour. Saint Nicholas was known to accredit Christ as the foundation of his love and generosity, being sure not to receive recognition, instead he gave God the honor and glory. Throughout the centuries his story became folklore, a legend that has grown into his dim reflection we call Santa today. With this in mind, if we didn’t have Christ, we wouldn’t have Santa!
A Christmas without Christ and Santa would mean we would need to get rid of most Christmas songs and movies including Rudolph, Santa Clause, Charlie Brown Christmas and so on! There would be no reason for stockings or gift-giving or decorations, as each of these Christmas traditions have Christian roots and meaning. Some might argue that Christians took over a pagan holiday to make it their own, going as far as suggesting that this fact taints the actual celebration of the birth of Jesus as part of our Christmas celebrations. After all, there is no indication that he was born on December 25. I began to feel this way myself until I realised that these Christians didn’t do anything different than what Paul did during the missionary visits. Acts 17: 22-30 state that while Paul was in Athens, he was among religious people and their idols of worship. During one of their meetings he addressed them by saying;
“22 People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.'[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'[b] 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by human design and skill.”
Paul redirected these well intentioned people to recognize who they were truly worshipping and clarified God’s significance in their life…in the same way Christians redirected well intentioned people during the 3-4th century when the Romans celebrated a pagan festival called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti which means “the birthday of the Unconquered Sun”, celebrating the sun god and the winter solstice. Instead, Christians stated their values by announcing the need to celebrate the birth of the One True God, which Malachi 4:2 describes as “the sun of righteousness”, who could not be conquered, as we know Jesus later died on the cross, providing salvation to those who believe through the power of his resurrection. This was the purpose of Christ’s coming, why He is referred to as Immanuel, “God with us”, as His gift to us was to come to Earth and die for us so we could have eternal life with Him! Now THAT is the true meaning of Christmas! This is why we need to recognize Him, his miraculous birth, life, death and resurrection, and not get distracted by material goods, or other gods/forms of worship.
How can we celebrate Jesus more effectively? Do we have to reject Santa?
Honestly, I don’t think even Santa would want us celebrating him as we do. We have created a character to be worshipped and Saint Nick worshipped and served only Jesus. The Bishop highlighted God alone as the reason and source of his generosity.
In our family we do our best to honour both, we recognize Christ as the “Reason for the Season” and share His story with our children while pointing out the impact Jesus had on a life like Saint Nick. We interlace these traditions accordingly:
- Gift giving-when Christ was born 3 Magi found Him and presented 3 gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh). To honour Christ we give our children only 3 gifts under the tree; something they want, something they need, and something spiritual-focus.
- Stockings-We fill stockings on Christmas Eve while our children are sleeping, we do this in memory of a great man who loved Jesus and wanted to bless children with gifts. Doing this also gives us a tangible and practical way to tell the real story of Santa rather than a stark and unnecessary rejection of everything Santa.
We have a variety of other Christmas traditions, and I encourage you to build some of your own! They are hugely beneficial to every family. You can read more http://www.doingfamilyright.com/the-impact-of-family-traditions/
Never forget the real “Reason for the Season” and how incomplete Christmas would be if we took Christ out of “Christmas.” Without Jesus there would be no Santa, let’s give Jesus more credit and more worship with that truth.
May your Christmas and New Year be full of deep and unending joy, and may the result of Jesus’ coming impact you as it did Santa!