Monday, December 6, 2010
I’ve got a bone to pick with Santa Claus.
The guy’s got some nerve butting in on a holiday that is supposed to be about the birth of Christ. How did this jolly old elf become indelibly linked with such a holy celebration? Did he even exist? I’ll admit it is hard to be too angry with an old gentleman who delights in giving, but what is the deal with his rewards and punishment system? After all, I have seen plenty of “naughty” children doing quite well for themselves on Christmas day, while “nice” children barely scrape by. Since I was a little girl, I have had questions about this mysterious man, and this year, I’m all about finding some answers.
Fact or Fiction? The legend of Santa Claus is largely attributed to Saint Nicholas, a kind-hearted Christian bishop who lived during the fourth century. Legend credits him with many miracles as well as the personal characteristic of selfless generosity. “It appears there was a Nicholas of Myrna, although at one time even Rome questioned his existence,” says John Hoh, author of Santa Claus: Is He For Your Child?. “The only historical reference to a Nicholas of Myrna was at the Council of Nicea.”
Hoh explains that many of the legends we have of St. Nicholas don’t agree. As he was conducting research for his book, his intent was to delve into a study of the original Nicholas to show the giving nature and evangelical spirit of the historical man. “Unfortunately,” he concedes, “where Scripture is consistent with details, Nicholas legends are not.”
Many Christian parents struggle with what to do with Santa Claus. How do you answer your child when she asks, “Is Santa Claus real?” Richard Patterson, Jr., author of Parenting: Loving Our Children with God's Love (Lifeguide Bible Studies)says, “By the time our son was five, he noticed that there were Santa’s on every corner, and he began asking questions. ‘Which one is the real Santa, Daddy?’ That’s when it’s helpful to ask questions right back.” Patterson recommends asking gentle questions that prod a young child’s ability to reason. He suggests open-ended questions, such as, What do you think? A real person can't be in a lot of different places at the same time, can he? This allows the parent to acknowledge today’s Santa as make-believe-- redirecting the conversation toward the real celebration: Christ. It’s okay to let your child know that "Santa Claus" was a real man who loved serving people, but help your child understand that Saint Nicholas was focusing on Christ.
NEXT IN THE SANTA SERIES:
Tuesday: Tempted to Use Santa as Your Disciplining Tool?
Wednesday: A Works-Oriented Myth
Thursday: Age-Appropriate Tips for Emphasizing Christ this Christmas
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