Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Real Santas

We watched one of the season's iconic Christmas videos last night.  "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" is a movie that tried to explain the history of gift giving at Christmas time and Santa Clause using nothing but very secular explanations.  Toward the end of the movie Pickle asked why we would waste our time watching such a movie.  It was full of lies.  At first I had to laugh at his purest ideas.  He is never open to "other options".  He is very black and white.  I love that about him.  He will never be swayed, he is solid.  The more I thought about it the more I couldn't help but reaching the conclusion that he was right.  What I called "iconic" was only published in 1970.  If just for love of history maybe my family should look deeper.

This does leave us with a void of how and why for all of our Christmas Traditions.  The idea of Santa Clause had to come from some where.  Everyone says the origin of Santa is St. Nicholas.  I have been enjoying reading a book called "Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas" by Ace Collins. 

This book looks deep into history and I love it.  It is surprising in parts but Christmas as we know it is only about a 200 year old tradition.  That is when it really became a holiday for children and then in searching for the reasons became a religious day.  Christ was probably born in the Spring, possibly even the fall but not in the winter.  The church picked this day in 320 ad.  Pope Julius picked December 25 because churches through out the world celebrated the birth at different times.  The move to December was in hopes to distract from the pagan celebrations of the times. 

Two great and generous men helped form the idea that gifts would be given to little ones in Christ name.  St. Nicholas and St. Wencelas were two members of the church that both carried Christ spirit of generosity into the world.  They did so in such a reverent way that they have been remembered for centuries. 

St. Nicholas lived in the fourth century.  St. Nicholas fun fact is that he attended the Council of Nicea meaning he helped with the Nicene Creed.  He was a man of faith making him a man of action.  There are so many legends about this great man.  Many are probably hard to clarify because over time they might have changed but the spirit of a generous man in a constant theme in all that is written about the man.  He isn't a fictitious character that never existed but a very real character that changed the world.  He loved those around him and loved his faith.  He gave gifts to the poor all the time.  He loved all of God's people and did all that he could to protect the dignity of the individual.  He died on December 6th and that date is the date that people chose to honor him after he passed away.  His legacy grow into a one that developed into a celebration of who he was.  This very small tradition grew from town to town and on December 6th all over the world people still give or get small gifts in his honor.  We have all heard how the mispronunciation of the name of St.Nicholas lead to the name of Santa Clause.   Click here to learn more about this remarkable man.

Another very cool man that changed the world would have been St. Wencelas.  The idea of giving gifts to celebrate the birth of Christ has origins with this great man.  He did not live as long as St. Nicholas but probably had heard of St. Nicholas and his gift giving to those that are less fortunate.   St. Nicholas was not known for giving at Christmas time but St. Wencelas was known for that.  Some say that he would have his servants take out large amounts of food and pass them out on Christmas Eve.  He lived from 903 to 935, dying on September 28th.  That is know his feast day.  He was killed by his brother, a pagan.  As he died he forgave his brother.  Years later his brother repented of the murder and saw that his body was located and returned to the church.  Click here to learn more about St. Wencelas.

In the end we owe both of these great and holy men our thanks.  They set very beautiful examples of how to love as Christ does.  From these men we have created many a tradition in our modern world.  It is standard practice to feed the poor and give gifts to children to celebrate our joy in knowing the savior was born. 

St. Nicholas and St. Wencelas Pray for us!

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