Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Teaching Kids about the Real Saint Nicholas

December 6 is St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) Day - HU: Mikulás - in Hungary and other countries of Europe.

Nate came into our room this morning and climbed into our bed. He has been pretty excited about Mikulás - today there is a Santa coming to visit his preschool, and last night we took him to a toy store that had a Santa. Nate told him exactly what he wanted for Christmas, and even wanted to sit on his lap.
We proceeded to tell Nate the story of Santa Claus - that is, the real Saint Nicholas - who was not a mythical fat man in red clothes who rode through the skies on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, but a devout Christian man, a pastor, who was persecuted for his faith, and gained fame by his generosity to the poor and those in need.

There are some Christians who think that Santa is evil, and that he takes away from the true meaning of Christmas. Not to mention, some would point out, that Santa is nothing more than a misspelling of SATAN, which must be why he goes around in those obnoxious red clothes: because he is from HELL and wants to take you and your kids back there with him!
This of course, is based on a sad lack of knowledge regarding the origin of Santa Claus - the name (in English) being simply a direct derivative of "Saint Nicholas".

For this reason, many Christians protest anything to do with Santa Claus, and tell their kids that Santa is not real, he is bad, and he takes away from the true meaning of Christmas, which of course is Jesus.

We don't avoid Santa Claus - we don't even want to. We see it as a great opportunity to teach our kids about a great Christian man who loved Jesus and was generous and kind because of the love of God which was in his heart. THAT is the "Christmas spirit".
We tell our kids that there are many people in the world who want to follow the example of Saint Nicholas, and that is why they will meet a Santa at their school and at the mall. And we teach our kids that we want to be like Saint Nicholas, and we are going to be generous to the poor and needy because God loved us so much that he gave us his Son, Jesus, so that we could have eternal life and have a relationship with God.

The Story of the Real Saint Nicholas
The real Saint Nicholas was born in the 3rd century in the village of Patara, in what is now southern Turkey, into a wealthy family. His parents died when he was young, and he was taken in and raised by a local priest. Following Jesus' call to the Rich Young Ruler to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor", Nicholas dedicated to use his entire inheritance to assist the sick, needy and suffering.
He became a pastor, and was later made Bishop of Myra. He became famous for his generosity and love for children.
Nicholas suffered persecution and imprisonment for his Christians faith during the Great Persecution (303-311) under Roman emperor Diocletian.
He attended the Council of Nicaea (325), at which he affirmed the doctrine of the deity of Christ.
Nicholas died in 343 in Myra. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th.

Many stories are told about St. Nicholas' life and deeds. Perhaps the most famous story is one of a poor man who had three daughters who were of marrying age. Because the man was poor, he was unable to provide a dowry for his daughters, which meant that they would not be able to find a descent husband, and would either be married into further poverty or would have to become slaves. After Nicholas found out about this family's situation, he visited the family's house, leaving them 3 anonymous gifts - each time a bag of gold, which was tossed through an open window while the family was sleeping. Legend has it that the gold fell into their shoes, the reason for the tradition in Europe that St. Nicholas leaves gifts in children's shoes. Nicholas provided for these poor girls to help them break out of the cycle of poverty.

Rather than teaching your kids the common myth about Santa Claus, and rather than trying to make Christmas Santa-free, take back the true story of Saint Nicholas and take hold of this opportunity to talk about a Christian man who loved Jesus and who exemplified the true Spirit of Christ and Christmas through compassion and generosity.

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