Where did Santa Claus come from? Let’s journey back to 300 A.D. to the country we now call Turkey. A young boy named Nicholas has just become an orphan and gone to live with his uncle. A large sum of money was bequeathed to Nicholas, to be presented when he came of age. Being a wise man of faith, his uncle taught Nicholas about God and giving to others.
When Nicholas received his inheritance, his dream of being able to help others in need came true!
Shortly after receiving his fortune, he left Myra to attend an all boys’ school in the neighboring town of Patara. While at school he heard about a homesick, lonely boy. To cheer him up, Nicholas secretly began carving a wooden animal for the boy to play with.
Late one night when everyone else was sleeping he crept out of bed and slipped his gift into the little boy’s shoe. In the morning when it was discovered, all the boys were so excited that they decided to create an entire Noah’s ark for the younger ones.
Back at his uncle’s home in the summertime, Nicholas heard about a local merchant who had borrowed money from an evil slave trader. Since the merchant couldn’t pay the money back, the slave trader was going to sell the merchant’s three daughters into slavery. Grieved by the situation, Nicholas knew what he must do. In the middle of the night he quietly crept up to the merchant’s house and dropped a bag of money through a window. The bag landed in one of the girls’ shoes. What joy they had the next morning when the merchant was able to keep his lovely daughters.
Nicholas continued secretly giving throughout his entire life making him a very beloved man. He became a role model parents wanted their children to admire and pattern their lives after. Caring more about the needs of others, he was willing to sacrifice his own comfort to provide for others. He sought only the reward of knowing he had made another’s life easier.
As he grew older he was overwhelmed by the poverty in the world. Where could he begin to help? An elder gave him these words of wisdom:
Each of us must do our very best and trust in God. Who knows how many people are happier because of one kindhearted deed? It is like lighting a candle in the dark. One candle brightens the night for so many people. And some light more candles from it, to carry the light to others.
So did Santa Claus come from Nicholas of Myra? It is a possibility. But consider the differences between the men as well as the responses of those who received the gifts. Nicholas sought to give people what they needed, whereas Santa Claus focuses on the wants of others. As a result the people to whom Nicholas of Myra ministered were deeply grateful, and, in turn, sought to “light a candle” for others in need. Today, our modern day Santa Claus promotes the idea of “What can I get?” not, “What can I give?”
Certainly we want to encourage our children to be givers instead of greedy takers. So how can we do that? Here are two practical and fun ideas for young and old alike.
December 6 in the Dutch tradition, is a day to celebrate the life of St. Nicholas. The following ideas will help you to keep the spirit of giving and blessing others alive in your Christmas celebrations.