The origins of Santa

It’s Christmas Eve!

Millions of children from all around the world are anticipating a visit from Santa Claus—who is probably going to be wearing a mask and washing his hands a few billion times, but that’s a discussion for another day.

A quick look at his origins is kind of fun. But more importantly, it reminds us about something vital as Christians at Christmas.

As far as I can tell, Saint Nicolas was a priest in Europe who lived over 1500 years ago. Little is known about his life, but he helped poor children by giving out coins and gifts through their windows.

December 6th came to be a day when people celebrated him. Many put an empty boot outside their doors or a stocking inside hoping he would fill them with gifts.

In the 1600’s Dutch settlers in North America brought these stories with them. They called Saint Nicolas “Sinterklaas.” Soon the name was English-ized into Santa Claus. Hear the name resemblance?

So Santa Claus is the modern remembrance of Saint Nicolas who gave out presents (originally to the poor) to share and show the love of Christ. Drag the December 6 date a few weeks down the calendar to blend it with Jesus’ birth—and bingo!

Why does he wear a red hat? Not only was Saint Nicolas a priest, but he was also a bishop. And bishops often wore red hats. Plus, Coca-Cola illustrators pushed the plump, red-suited image of Santa beginning, I think, in the 1930’s. So even though pictures of Santa didn’t used to all look the same, today there is much more uniformity thanks to the marketing of a soft drink company.

To most people, Santa is the man who magically gives presents, and to others he’s a symbol of commercialism. But if you dig a bit deeper, you can trace some roots to a priest named Saint Nicolas who gave gifts to poor children to share and show the love of Christ.

THAT, my friends, is something positive to remember and embody on an ongoing basis. Recall 1 John 3:17: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

One way to keep Christ in Christmas, is to keep Christ in you.

By Matthew Ruttan

TONIGHT is Christmas Eve! If you don’t have a church home, you’re invited to our online service at Westminster! It goes live at 5:30pm EST, and will be available all evening. Click here to watch a 30-second sneak peek of what to expect.

–Bible quote are from the NIV.

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