I heard there’s a school for Santas.
It’s an actual classroom setting to teach men how to become Santa Claus. Guys looking for extra cash for the holidays learn to answer difficult questions such as, “What’s my address, Santa?”. They learn the fine art of the Santa ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’. No doubt, they’re given valuable tips on how to keep the little lap dwellers from pulling at beards and hair in case they’re wearing fakes. Hopefully, these fellows already possess a sense of whimsy; not to mention kindness and joviality. I can’t imagine teaching those qualities in just a few of sessions.
Anyway, it made me reflect on the story, the legend of the Jolly Old Soul. Why do we continue it?
My impetuous Princess Maagy is confronted with her own conflict of faith concerning this issue in Krispen Book 2 in the Maagy Series. Everything she believes in is challenged, put to the test in the most frightening and disturbing way when a terrifying event throws her into a dark place of melancholy and mistrust. Her most treasured belief is that Father Krispen is real. However, the other young palace nobles ridicule her relentlessly for her juvenile conviction. Ah, but a clandestine adventure with a mysterious midnight visitor ultimately gives her the answers she seeks and renews her trust in that which is unseen.
So, what is the origin of this impossible task of one old man delivering gifts all over the world in a single night?
The foundation for our American tradition of Santa Claus is rooted in the legend of a kind and pious monk named Saint Nicholas. He was born to a wealthy family around 280 A.D. in Patara near the modern-day city of Myra, Turkey. That’s right, the first manifestation of Santa Claus was not blue-eyed. Go figure! Presumably, he was dark-skinned, with black maybe curly hair and brown eyes. Saint Nicholas was said to be a generous and exceedingly kind man to whom many legends have been attributed but none so lasting as that of Santa Claus. He allegedly gave away his entire inheritance to sick and poor citizens. He saved three sisters from slavery by anonymously giving them a dowry allowing them to marry. The legend goes, he threw bags of gold through their window at night. One landed in a stocking drying by the fireplace. Now you know where that tradition originated. He became known as the protector of children and sailors. His story spread far and wide throughout Europe and each culture has manifested its own version of the fable. The Feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on December sixth.
So how did the legend of this venerable philanthropist jump the pond?
The name Santa Claus evolved from Sinter Klaus, a shortened form of Sint Nicholaas, the Dutch form of Saint Nicholas. Toward the end of the 18th Century, New York newspapers reported that Dutch families had gathered to celebrate the anniversary of his death on December sixth. I’m quite sure Sinter Klaus did have blue eyes! The rest as they say is history and the modern custom began.
What’s wrong with a good story about a whimsical hero?
Some would say it’s perpetuating a lie. We all know that lying to our children is wrong in any form. It’s detrimental to our relationships with them and erodes their well-being and sense of right and wrong. They lump it in with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and monsters under the bed. Really?
To that, I say a resounding HOGWASH!!
Let’s get something straight, there is a huge difference between a lie and a legend, a fairytale, an entertaining story with a moral lesson embedded within its fantasy. A lie is intended to do one of two things; either cover one’s exposed and endangered derrière or cause dissension, discord, trouble, or conflict for those to whom or about whom the lie is told. I submit that telling children that Santa Claus is coming is neither. The fact is the magic and mystery of Santa Claus is about believing in the impossible, the unseen, the unlikely, the hopeless. And yet, it happens. For one night, all is possible; all is likely. Hope is restored even if not seen.
The story of Santa Claus is about teaching children to believe.
I for one know the Big Guy is real. Why? Because I believe he is, so, therefore, he is. In our home, Santa lives on in the hearts and minds of my adult children because we all chose to accept that there are greater things in the Universe than we can comprehend. Santa is one of them. The religious Christmas Miracle around which Santa’s visit is coordinated notwithstanding, not every culture celebrates the Virgin Birth. However, even people with no religious affiliation buy into the sleigh full of goodies pulled by flying reindeer. Note that the first celebration of Saint Nicholas was not at Christmas but on the anniversary of his death. In fact, the legend of Saint Nicholas was around long before the Blessed Baby was born; about 280 years before. So, please, I don’t need a lesson on the sanctity of Christmas being a Christian day of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. To this I concede, but Santa Claus is not synonymous with Christianity. In fact, most Christmas traditions that we hold so dear today, like decorating the Christmas tree, hanging stockings by the fire, and burning the Yule Log, date back to pagan celebrations upon which the Christian church put the kibosh in favor of its own agenda. Yet, the legends of similarly altruistic men and women committing random acts of kindness continue to perpetuate all over the world in one form or another, and all have the same overall theme of anonymous giving for the sake of giving.
Even the Jewish faith has a take on anonymous giving.
This is a quote from Eight Degrees of Giving by Chaya Shauchat found on www.Chabad.org, published 10/2017: “The Torah’s word for the act of giving to the needy, tzedakah, while commonly translated as ‘charity’ more accurately means ‘justice’. G-d selects certain people as agents to disburse His bounty to others. Thus, when we are in a position to assist someone else, we are not behaving altruistically by giving away something that is rightfully ours. Rather, we are doing justice, by dispensing the money that G-d entrusted to us in the way that He desires.” So, according to this, we all have the potential to be Santa Claus with a divine mission to do justice for our fellow human beings.
There is even a female manifestation of this phenomenon of altruism.
In Italy, La Befana is the equivalent of Saint Nicholas in that she delivers gifts to deserving boys and girls on the Feast of the Epiphany, January sixth, the twelfth day of Christmas; presumably, the day that the Magi and Shepherds found the Blessed Child in the barn and gave him gifts. La Befana was actually an old witch, a crone, whose own children had died. When the Three Kings were searching for the Blessed Infant, they stopped by her house to rest. They told her of their quest and invited her to come along, but she declined. When the Shepherds stopped by, she also declined. Then she had second thoughts about her decisions. She packed up all her own children’s possessions and tried to follow them but got lost. She never found the Shepherds, the Kings, or the Blessed Baby, so she gave the things away to children she met on her journey. The legend is that every year thereafter, she has set out on a mission to deliver gifts to children as she searches for the Child.
Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Father Krispen, Tzedakah, La Befana
are just some of many traditions around the world all aimed toward the spirit of giving. All the stories have two themes in common: anonymous giving without receiving and believing in the impossible, the unseen. Aren’t those ideals worth continuing?
So, Rock on, Santa School!
Let’s all take a few lessons in kindness, generosity, altruism, faith, hope, and charity and spread good will to our fellow humans. Don’t be a stick-in-the-mud! Get on board the Polar Express and choo-choo headlong into Happy Holidays!
Thanks so much for listening. Don’t forget to visit my website, www.justmaagy.com where you’ll be able to read a few chapters from each of the books, read past blogs, or get the inside scoop on peripheral characters in the Character Profile section. Follow me on Instagram @justmaagy and my Facebook pages, The Maagy Series and Virginia Burton Stringer, Author. Until next time, have a very Merry Holiday Season, no matter what you celebrate and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.
This is Virginia Burton Stringer reminding you to Enjoy the Adventure!