In present day America the day after Thanksgiving is traditionally spent hanging Christmas decorations and various lighting across the house and yard. These fun displays usually fit in the category of snowman, reindeer, or a big jolly old man with a white beard in a bright red suit with white fuzzy trim. We usually see images of this same person in stories or on the television magically hopping down chimneys and delivering gifts to sleeping families worldwide. This image has become something we’ve all been generationally born into, but where did this myth originate from? What is the truth behind this entire story?
“The real St. Nicholas lived from 270 to 342 and was known in his lifetime for fighting evil and promoting justice. He was credited with performing many miracles. His body was buried in the church in Myra, but in the 11th century pirates stole the bones and took them to Bari, Italy, where they supposedly are preserved in a Catholic church. About that time Nicholas also became a popular saint in Northern Europe. He was sometimes depicted with a staff, looking more like a Greek bishop.
The legend that has become the basis of the Santa Claus story is this:
A poor man had three daughters. Unable to give them dowries, he thought he would have to sell them into prostitution [something the extremely poor were sometimes forced into at that time]. Nicholas wanted to help but also keep his charity work secret. He went to their home one night but climbed on the roof when he found all the doors and windows locked. He dropped three bags of gold down the chimney, and the three young women had hung their stockings by the fire to dry. The gifts fell into the socks, and the tradition was off and running.
St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, still is celebrated in many countries, and often includes gifts for children and gift exchanges among adults. So, the real person who fought for social justice, elimination of poverty and protection of children has had his image corrupted by a friendly guy in a red suit who brings you generally more than you would ever want.”
Robert Jewett, a Pauline scholar who teaches at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago mentions that ‘Early Christians opted out of conspicuous consumption. They saw it as an evil form of competition, similar to the notion of keeping up with the Jones's.’
A Material Cause
During the days of Paul the Apostle, greed was an easy reality to observe. The rich get rich and the poor get poorer. Arguably materialism in our times today is the only way to prove any kind of “flaunting success.” Continuing to buy and accumulate “things” has become the way Americans prove our worth to others.
Historian Adam English writes that, “Nearly everyone knows that Santa Claus -- the obese, old gent who squeezes himself down the chimney every Christmas Eve -- is the American alter ego of St. Nicholas. Slimmer and less overtly jolly, St. Nicholas roams about Western Europe showering children with presents on his traditional feast day of Dec. 6. In the Netherlands and parts of Germany, children expect a visit from a white-bearded, ecclesiastically garbed "Sinterklaas" (his Dutch name), who decides whether they have been naughty or nice before handing out treats from his sack.
Dutch and German immigrants brought St. Nicholas to America in the early 19th century, and he began a process of assimilation, trading in his bishop's miter and crosier for a fur-trimmed red suit and cap. The Santa we now know was the creation of poet Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), the author of "The Night Before Christmas"; cartoonist Thomas Nast; illustrators like N.C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell; and the magazine ads for Coca-Cola painted by Haddon Simmons starting in 1931, in which Santa took a break from the arduousness of setting up junior's electric train by pausing to have a coke.”
So, here we are in 2020 and most of American society relishes in the contemporary version of St. Nick. One has got to wonder how Christians should feel about the secularized and materialistic view on Christmas Santa Claus?
Ken Ham, Director of the Creation Museum and bearer of 6 honorary university graduate degrees mentions, “The mythical Santa is clearly founded in a man who honored Jesus Christ with his life and his possessions. Nicholas gave freely of his riches to benefit those who were less fortunate than himself. This is clearly a fundamental Christian principle, as we see care for the poor proclaimed throughout Scripture (e.g., James 2:1–17).
Is that the same idea we see in the Santa Claus celebrated today? The popular song extols children to stop shouting, pouting, and crying in order to earn Santa’s favor and his gifts. This is clearly not the attitude that we see in the biblically motivated actions of the original St. Nick—and a far cry from a biblical attitude of raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.”
Hope, Joy, Blessings
Of course discernment is the key here when it comes to a good old fashioned secularized Christmas. Because even though Christ’s day has been cut down to a materialistic game of possessions, there are still hints scattered throughout the collage of the holidays. Bright stars, Gifts, Blessings of Joy and Hope. These are all principles of the day we know as Christmas. It is a day of blessing others. It is a day of healing and redemption. It is a day to reconnect and start fresh, knowing that there is divine light at the end of a dark road. Christmas is the day that mankind was gifted with the ultimate redemption on life by God Himself.
Other than the divinity of Jesus Christ, humanity has been blessed with the likes of the Apostles, the Christian Church, ministries of giving and selfless service, and much, much, more. Santa Claus, or St. Nick, was a man of Christ. He was known for much more than working with elves, magically transporting down chimneys, and riding a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer across the skyline. He was a man who knew how to live a life for Christ and serve the needs of humankind who ultimately needed it the most.
Daniel L. Smith
 Allen, Martha Sawyer. "What would St. Nick do? : St. Nicholas - the real guy - was known for his battles against evil and for justice and the downtrodden. Somehow over the centuries his image has been corrupted into that of Santa Claus, who has been called the patron saint of greed." Star Tribune [Minneapolis, MN] 4 Dec. 1999: 05B. Business Insights: Global. Web. 7 Dec. 2020.
 Allen, Charlotte. "The Real Father Christmas." Wall Street Journal, Dec 06, 2012, Eastern edition.
 Ham, Ken. "Christians and Santa Claus: A Biblical View." Answers in Genesis. Last modified December 15, 2009. https://answersingenesis.org/jesus/birth/wintertime-worship-santa-claus-or-jesus-christ/.