December 23, 2022

I had gone to visit friends in a care facility earlier this week and was surprised to see Santa walk through the door.  He spent time talking with the staff and then proceeded to go room to room saying hello and stopping to chat with those residents who greeted him.  I have also seen Santa in several parades and even at the Christmas celebration where I work.  While he generally looks the same, I have marveled at his ability to gain and lose weight, seemingly at will.  I guess it must come from the enormous amounts of cookies he eats on Christmas Eve.

When I looked online, I found Santa Claus, aka Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or simply Santa, is a legendary character originating in Western Christian culture.  He is said to bring children gifts during the overnight hours on Christmas Eve.  These toys, candy, coal, or nothing, depend on whether the child was “naughty or nice”.   Santa is aided by Christmas elves, who make the toys in his North Pole workshop, and by flying reindeer who pull his sleigh through the air.  Santa is generally depicted as a round, jolly, white-bearded man, often with spectacles, wearing a red coat, trousers, and hat all trimmed with white fur, and black leather belt and boots, and carrying a bag full of gifts for the children.  This image became popular in the US and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of the 1823 poem by Clement C. Moore, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.  Caricaturist Thomas Nast also played a role in the creation of Santa’s image.  This image has been maintained and reinforced through song, media, children’s books, family Christmas traditions, films, and advertising.  The modern character of Santa is based on folklore traditions surrounding Saint Nicholas, the English figure of Father Christmas and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas.

While Santa is venerated and enjoyed by many, some find this characterization objectionable.  Santa Claus has partial Christian roots in Saint Nicholas, particularly in the high church denominations that honor him along with other saints.  Other denominations hold views that vary from acceptance to denouncement.  The English Puritans and Dutch Calvinists of the 17th-century banned the holiday tradition as either pagan or Roman Catholic and the American colonies established by these groups did the same.  Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the ban on Christmas was lifted and was satirized in works such as Josiah King’s The Examination and Tryal of Old Father Christmas; Together with his Clearing by the Jury, in 1686.  Modern criticism centers around commercialization of the Santa Claus figure that began in the 19th century.  The original figure of St. Nicholas gave only to those who were needy, while today Santa seems to be more about conspicuous consumption.  With all the stress and criticism, it is no wonder the jolly old elf overindulges in sugar.

THOUGHTS:  Santa is one of the few characters who brings joy equally to children and adults.  The mere presence of Santa can bring a smile as memories of Christmases past flood our minds.  Life is the combination of memories (good and bad) and the expectation of events (and their memories) to come.  Plan to make good memories this Christmas that will last a lifetime.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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