Christians against Santa

December 6, 2007 | By | Reply More

Today (Dec. 6th) is St. Nicholas Day. Saint Nick is the cultural ancestor of Santa Claus (via Sinter Klaas in the Dutch tradition).

Nicholas was a 4th century bishop of Myra (now in Turkey), and became the patron Saint of Russia, and of children. He had a fondness for the three daughters of a local merchant, and for reasons left unstated, found himself endowering them to get them married off, one at a time. This was framed as an act of Christian Charity, and is arguably the basis of associating him with gifts to children.

Germanic tradition was to have children leave their shoes outside on the evening of December 5th and in the morning they would find a coin or a candied fruit. Shoes became stockings, Nicholas was acquired in a hostile takeover by Britain’s Father Christmas, and his gifts delayed to the Yuletide Solstice celebration.

A formerly somber-garbed priest, he didn’t pick up his red suit until the late 19th century in America when “The Night Before Christmas” was composed by a desperate father for his ailing daughter who wanted to hear a Christmas poem, and none were previously available. My mother grew up in the 1930’s in Berlin with the same Brown-cloaked Santa her own mother had known.

So, why are Conservative Christians against Santa Claus? Yuletide is a pagan holiday, along with all the trimmings: Luminaria (lights), wreaths, an evergreen bough or tree, gifting, and festivities of excessive eating and drinking are all pre-Christian contributions to the winter solstice holiday ostensibly celebrating the springtime birth of Jesus. Also, every magical creature associated with Jesus increases the possibility that people might start disbelieving in one too many myths as they come of age.

Santa Claus is also a figurehead manifestation of the excessive mercantile spirit the holiday has come to represent. Originally, the Church sought to gain popularity for itself by merging in the existing traditions, but now the Church fears getting lost as a mere adjunct to the traditions it tried to spin for its own purposes. Small and vocal Protestant groups have been objecting to Santa Claus and related holiday trimmings back into the 16th century, as either pagan or Catholic trappings (depending on the constituency). Christmas itself was banned in England under the Puritan rule of Cromwell in the 17th century. Then the Puritans were overthrown and exiled. Lucky us.

What of the example of the gifts of the Magi? Santa does help cover up the story that Jesus was recognized as savior and king not by Jews, but by Magi (Zoroastrians). But this is fodder for another post.

I’ve gleaned most of this from many sources over the years. But with the dawn of the wwweb, ideas and sources are easier to find and to trace. Wiki Santa. Wiki Christmas Controversy.


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Category: Consumerism, Culture, History, Religion

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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