Growing up, children were always enthusiastic about Christmas. Not just for Christmas, but also for Santa. Santa's image is everywhere throughout the Christmas season, but do we truly grasp the history and origins of one of the most popular Christmas figures? How do we answer when the youngsters question, "Who is Santa?" Let’s then use this question as a learning opportunity as we look at the origins of Santa Claus, the evolution of his meaning over the course of history, and some of the rituals associated with his name.
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The History of Santa Claus
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas or Kris Kringle, has a rich heritage rooted in Christmas customs. He is best known today as the cheerful guy in red who distributes presents to good girls and boys on Christmas Eve. However, his narrative dates back to the 3rd century when he roamed the world and became the saint of children. Santa Claus' mythology may be traced back decades or centuries to a monk named St. Nicholas. Nicholas is believed to be born about the year 280 A.D. at Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. St. Nicholas, who was widely loved for his devotion and charity, became the focus of several stories.
Nicholas' parents were supposed to be devoted Christians who had long wished for a child. They dedicated Nicholas to God once he was born. As an only child, he was showered with love and extra attention. Sadly, when Nicholas was still a young boy (probably a teen), his city was devastated by a disease, and both of his parents died. Though such a tragedy may push some people away from God, it appears to have moved Nicholas closer to him. The boy's heart seemed to have become more sensitive to the sorrow of others as a result of the death of his parents.
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Nicholas was handed a huge inheritance and decided to put it to good use by honouring God. He established such a great reputation in his neighbourhood that he was appointed Archbishop of Myra (a harbour city just south and east of Patara) when he was still in his early twenties, indicating that he must have shown knowledge and wisdom above his age. A severe persecution of Christians began during his time as Archbishop. During this period, Nicholas was imprisoned and tortured for his beliefs. The persecution that began during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian was carried on for another eight years by his successor, Galerius.
When the persecution stopped and Christians achieved new religious freedom, they were confronted with new obstacles. Serious theological differences began to develop.
Constantine understood the necessity for Christian unity, so he gathered bishops from all over the empire at Nicea in 325 A.D. to examine crucial theological problems.
Nicholas was identified as one of the bishops present at the gathering. He had almost no idea that his name would one day be more renowned than any other in attendance at the council that produced the famous Nicene Creed.
Saint Nicholas Day
Did you also know that Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on the 6th of November every year? St. Nicholas Day started in a variety of ways over time. This day was honoured in Italy with meals, gift-giving, and celebrations. In other European nations, including Germany and the Netherlands, children would put on their shoes or special St. Nicholas boots at the front of the fireplace or the front door at night and wake up to find gifts in them. The legend of St. Nicholas and his good actions influenced the modern-day Santa Claus and Father Christmas, which is why some people still leave presents in their boots or stockings.
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Ways to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day
Support someone in need
Following in the footsteps of St. Nicholas, a wonderful way to spend this day is to bless someone in need. Donate to a charitable organization, provide money to someone in need, or even assist a friend or family member.
Have a good time
In Europe, St. Nicholas Day also referred to as the Feast of St. Nicholas, is a popular celebration. Celebrate the 6th of December with a feast with your family and friends. There's nothing wrong with blowing your budget on food for a day.
Make your own St. Nicholas stocking or customized St. Nicholas boot.
This would be a lovely decoration for St. Nicholas Day. Buy an affordable pair of boots or upcycle an old pair to create a one-of-a-kind display to place in front of your fireplace on St. Nicholas Day.
Photo by Mike Arney on Unsplash
Although most adults are well aware that Santa Claus does not exist, they still continue to convince the younger ones that he does. Santa Claus is a myth, but children adore him on Christmas. The festivity would lose its allure if Santa did not appear. Santa not only gives the children gifts, but he also sends a message for them to be good in terms of behaviour and studies which inspires children to strive better in life.
With that, we at YOUth would like to wish you a Merry Merry Christmas!
By: Carmen Kan