OK, how about now? As an intelligent and well-educated adult, do you believe in Santa Claus now? Certainly not, you say?
In that case, you might be interested to know that the younger version of yourself – the version filled with the wonder and magic of Christmas, and blessed with the wonderful innocence of childhood – that version of you was correct. And the current version of yourself – the wise and worldly version that knows there’s really no such thing as Christmas magic – that version of you is wrong.
Because in fact, there really is a Santa Claus – or at least there was.
A Man Morphs Into a Myth
Santa is a man of numerous names. One of those names you’ve probably heard many times – jolly old Saint Nicholas. That version of Santa Claus is quite real, because there really was a Saint Nicholas. And he helped to inspire the modern-day myth of Santa Claus.
Nicholas was born into a wealthy family late in the third century A.D. in the Greek colony of Patara. He became a bishop of the church in Patera, where he served until his death in the middle 4th century A.D.
But there’s a legend associated with Nicholas that eventually led to his canonization as a saint. And it also led to the modern-day character of Santa Claus.
The Birth of Santa Claus
Nicholas inherited great wealth from his parents. As a young man he gave away much of that wealth, but there are different versions of just how he did that.
According to one version, Nicholas encountered a man who was down on his luck. The poor man had been wiped out financially, and as a result he was unable to provide a dowry for his three daughters.
But Nicholas came to the rescue. By the dark of night, Nicholas crept up to an open window of the man’s house, and tossed 3 bags of gold inside – a bag for each daughter.
And as one popular version of the story recounts, each bag of gold happened to land in a stocking or a shoe arranged along the fireplace mantle – the root of the Christmas tradition of stuffing stockings with gifts.
Saint Nicholas Becomes Jolly Old St. Nick
As so often happens, the passage of time magnified the legend of Nicholas. He became known worldwide as a protector of children and a giver of gifts. In time, a day was set aside in many regions to honor him: St. Nicholas day. Much of the world celebrates this day in early December, and marks the occasion with the tradition of giving gifts to children.
For many centuries, the Dutch have celebrated St. Nicholas day on December 5. According to long-standing legend, it’s on this day that St. Nicholas re-appears and bestows gifts upon all well-behaved children.
And the Dutch name for St. Nicolas? Sinterklass – known to you as Santa Claus…
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus…
Parents of young children often struggle with the concept and legend of Santa Claus. After all, most parents wish to be honest and forthright with their children.
But Santa Claus is such an integral part of the magic of Christmas, particularly for young children. And few parents wish to rob a child of that all too brief and fleeting window of innocent, trusting belief in a kind and benevolent legend.
So if your child climbs upon your knee one day this Christmas season, and asks with hopeful eyes whether Santa is real – just think of Nicholas, who became St. Nicholas, who became Sinterklass, who became Santa Claus, and answer: “Yes, child, there really is a Santa Claus.”
Jason Woodward is Director of eCommerce for ChristmasDesigners.com, a leading supplier of both indoor and outdoor LED Christmas lights and decoration products. Christmas Designers caters to all Christmas enthusiasts, including private homeowners and professional installation contractors. You can also find Jason on Google+
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