Santa Claus, is known by many names: Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle and simply "Santa". He is a figure that has been influenced by legend, myth, folklore and most importantly for our purposes today. He wears red, is pulled around on a sleigh by a bunch of reindeer and delivers presents to good children on the 24th of December.
The purpose of my post is not to argue about whether or not to teach kids about the full on mythical father Christmas; personally I think it is a bad idea to go along with our culture on this; my friend Clint Archer does a good job of dealing with this issue, click here to read it.
What I hope to do in this article is see if there is anything about Father Christmas that can be redeemed. Now before you think my optimistic amillenialism has got the best of me, please read on.
The portly, joyous, white-bearded, bespectacled, red coat wearing, black leather belt displaying man who carries gifts for children in a huge bad really became popular in the USA and Canda in the 19th century . Thanks to the American media machine this image has been maintained and promulgated in song, radio, TV, children’s books and films. This image was further entrenched in the 20th century, especially with big corporations like Coka-Cola taking Santa on board their advertising .
If we move back a few generations, some people say that the affinity Santa has for chimney comes from the pre-Christian era of Northern Europe. It is said to be believed by the Norse that Odin came through the chimney of a house to deliver gifts. After Christianization it may be that this attribute of Odin was passed on to Santa.
Santa has definitely been the source of much opposition in history, the Calvinists, puritans and other non-conformists, in their desire to undo the damage done by the Roman church of the time, denounced the celebration of holy-days. This meant they had a huge issue with Christmas. They also had a huge issue with the veneration of saints. Saint Nicholas just happened to be one of the saints venerated in the Catholic and other high churches. While I sympathise with the Calvinists and puritans of the time, I do think we live in a slightly different time. The veneration of saints is not as organised and institutionalised across our culture as it once was. Perhaps trying to redeem saints like Nicholas may not have been wise 500 years ago, I think there is room for seeing how we as protestants can embrace these parts of church history.
How did I get from Santa to saints? Well, it seems that Saint Nicholas is part of the inspiration behind the modern Santa Claus. ST Nickolas was a Bishop who lived in the 4th century AD in Myra which was the then Asia Minor (Modern day Turkey). He was a rich man due to a large inheritance that came his way when he was orphaned at a young age. Records seem to indicate that he was a kind man with a reputation for helping the poor and secretly...