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One of the Radio Commercials I heard person asking “what is Christmas” and the answer given ‘Christmas means Santa clause’. Unfortunately Santa has become the centre of Christmas not Christ. Christmas is not Santa clause; it’s the celebration of one of the greatest events in Salvation history the Incarnation, Word becoming flesh and living with us, the birth of Jesus . Santa Claus is nothing but a secular distraction to the celebration of Nativity of our Lord today.

 


Today people have so much of praise for Santa Claus for distributing chocolates and the fun and exchange gifts; meanwhile God’s greatest gift to humanity Jesus Christ is forgotten. I observed in all the Christmas celebrations Santa clause steals the show and not Christ the new born baby.

We spend hundreds and thousands of rupees in decorating and constructing useless figures of Santa Claus. Enormous labor, time and money are being wasted during this season.

 The focus of Christmas should be on Jesus Christ who loved us unconditionally. It is our responsibility to know who this Santa Clause and educate people who deviate from real Christmas.

Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man sometimes with spectacles wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots and who carries a bag full of gifts for children.

The Legend of St. Nicholas who has become Santa Clause:

St. Nicholas was born on March 15 th 270 to a wealthy Christian parents in Patara in modern Turkey. We can probably trace their spiritual heritage to the Apostle Paul, who stopped in Patara on his third missionary journey 200 years earlier.

 St.Nicholas’ parents Ephipanias and Juana were very devout Christians and after long prayers the child was born, whom they named Nicholas. As an only child, he was raised with great affection and special attention.  Nicholas’ both parents died in a plague struck to their city, when he was a teenager. Nicholas was left with a large inheritance and decided that he would use it to honor God.

Nicholas was a godly man known for his charity and generosity. He sold all his inheritance and gave to the poor. He joined the seminary became a priest and later was chosen as Archbishop of Myra.

During his service as Archbishop, a violent persecution of Christians began. Nicholas was almost certainly imprisoned during this time and was likely tortured for his faith.

There are many stories told about St. Nicholas emphasizing his kindness and generosity. He saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors.

 St. Nicholas saved people from famine, spared the lives of those innocently accused. He did generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return.

He used to give gifts to the children during Christmas that is the reason children used to call him “Father of gifts” or sometimes Christmas Father among the English. He participated in Nicean Synod (325) which proclaimed Human and Divine nature of Jesus, that Christians professes in their creed.

 St. Nicholas died on 6 December 343, was buried at the Cathedral of Myra. After his death the relic came from his tomb named “Manna” which became very popular among devotees of him. Many experienced healing from their ailments with the power of the relic. In 1087 the relic was brought to Italy and kept at Bari in the church constructed after him.

St. Nicholas is known as the Bishop of Gifts. A tradition of gift giving was begun after his death on the eve of his feast celebrated on 6 th December. Since there were aberrations in giving gifts during the feast of St. Nicholas, Martin Luther  propagated giving gifts at the time Christmas as an alternative to the previous very popular gift custom on St. Nicholas, to focus the interest of the children to Christ instead of the veneration of saints.

Slowly St. Nicholas started to draw too much attention away from Christ and he came to be popular as St. Nicholas, St. Nick, Santa Claus and even the English name Father Christmas. St. Nicholas in German language is known as “Sancta Clause”

 The present image of Sancta Clause distracts from real St. Nicholas, a man who devoted his life to serving God. Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants.

Santa Clause and Christmas:

It is believed that Santa Claus will come to town during Christmas time with variety of gifts, to the children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior. He would present toys, and candy to all of the well-behaved children in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children on the eve of Christmas. Children who believe that the gifts they receive Christmas morning are from a magical man Santa.

Writing letters to Santa Claus has been a Christmas tradition for children for many years. These letters normally contain a wish list of toys and assertions of good behavior. Many postal services allow children to send letters to Santa Claus.

Commercialization of Santa:

Santa Claus appears in the weeks before Christmas in department stores or shopping malls, or at parties to amuse people. The modern Santa Claus has evolved into a secularized figure surrounded by fantasy and commercialization. People dress as Sancta Claus, as a new strategy to raise funds, to promote business, to endorse products etc. The image of Sancta Claus as a benevolent character became reinforced with its associations. In some images from the early 20th century, Santa was depicted as personally making his toys by hand in a small workshop like a craftsman and marketing to the people.

Gift-giving, mainly centered on children, has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since early 19th century. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus.

Santa Clause a deviation from Christmas:

 St Nicholas proclaimed Jesus Christ the savior of world, the only begotten son of the father. His life and achievements as the shepherd of the flock must not tarnished with commercial image of Santa clause. The people of other faiths misunderstand Christmas, the greatest event of Christianity, as the coming of a jolly good old fellow Sancta. St Nicholas witnessed Jesus by dedicating his life, serving the poor and the needy. Can we celebrate Christmas without Santa Clause? Off course yes. Christ is the centre of Christmas not Sancta! At the same time we cannot keep sancta completely out from our Christmas celebrations. Let Santa remind of the great saint, St Nicholas, who lived and died for the poor and became another Christ to his faithful. Let us not be carried away by Santa clause this Christmas, rather our celebrations centre on Jesus Christ.

Fr. Richard D Souza
Director CCC

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