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Is Santa Christian?

The Santa-Christian Connection


Given the secular emphasis on Santa each Christmas, some children (and I think, even some adults!) have no idea that Santa Claus has his roots in a real Christian bishop. While there is nothing specifically Christian about Santa today, his origins are strongly so.

Although our modern understanding of Santa comes from advertising (especially Coca-Cola), children's stories, and American folklore, the roots of Santa are Christian. Santa is based on the bishop and holy man, St. Nicholas of Myra, who lived in Turkey and died in AD 343. His feast day is celebrated on December 6th. The development of the name Santa (followed by Claus) can be heard by saying the Dutch variation of Saint Nicholas, "Sinter Klaas."

christmas displayAccording to a legend, St. Nicholas once provided dowry money to three poor girls so they could get married. This act of charity could be what associated St. Nicholas with the gift giving tradition of Santa. In one version of the legend, St. Nicholas, acting in good Christian fashion, anonymously drops his gift down the chimney, like the later Santa. Nicholas was also present at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, and according to legend, became so bothered by Arius' denial of the divinity of Jesus, that Nicholas punched him (maybe Arius was the first to be on Santa's naughty list).

Thus, the modern version of Santa is not a specifically Christian character, but Santa is based on a real saint from over 1500 years ago. Christian parents, even those suspicious of the commercialism of Christmas, could use the real story of Santa to teach their children values like charity and generosity.

       

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