I distinctly remember the first time this question ever occurred to me. I was seven years old and walking to school with my friend, when he told me that he had shocking news for me. It was late in December, and I wondered what could it be.
“Santa Claus is not real.” He said nonchalantly.
“What?” I said. I couldn’t believe my ears. He repeated it.
“That’s not true, there is too much evidence”, I said.
“Like what?” He questioned.
“Well, for one thing, he is in the parade every year, and at the mall. And also, look at the presents.”
“Parents do that”, he said again smugly.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Because my parents told me so.”
There was a long silence for the rest of the way to school. He seemed very happy, as if he had taken something valuable from me, and he loved it when he was right. But he hadn’t taken anything from me. Maybe Santa didn’t exist in his world, but he was alive and well in mine.
Still, I was somewhat shaken by this claim of his. I didn’t show it at the time, but I did question his so-called news’ veracity. When I got home I talked to my mother about it, and she assured me that Santa was real, and that my friend and his parents were mistaken. I was happy to know this.
I asked her about what my friend had said about the mall Santa Claus’ and how they were different and had fake beards. My mother explained to me that Santa was very busy, and so he employed many helpers to assist him, and sometimes make appearances for him.
Christmas night, I heard my mother working late into the night making something. The next day, when I awoke, there was a special present for me. It was a large wooden structure, with a silk blue curtain, for putting on puppet shows. That was the event that started my love for puppets, and marionettes and all those sorts of things. The tag on it said it was from Santa, but I had heard my mother make it. Was she his helper too? Was everybody in on this? I had many questions.
It seemed there were two sides. There were the ‘bah humbuggers’ who would always doubt and discredit. Then there were the believers, who lived in the spirit of Christmas, with carols on their tongues, and truly enjoying the season of giving.
I remember thinking how my friend and I had already had a long conversation that would define the rest of our time together in one way or another. He absolutely did not believe in God either, and I simply could not understand how he could be so blind. Well, I am older now, and I know the whole truth, and my disbelieving acquaintance is a distant memory.
So, is Santa Claus real?
The historical Saint Nicholas the Wonder-worker
Saint Nicholas of Myra, was arch-bishop in the 4th century, and is known also as a Wonder-worker for the many miracles performed during his life, and after his ascension to heaven. He was also instrumental in refuting Arius presumption, who tried to spread false teachings as to the nature of Christ. On one occasion, a sailor fell overboard his ship, and prayed to Saint Nicholas for help, and was miraculously transported back to his family. This is but one instance in which he assisted seafarers, so much so, that he is known as the patron Saint of sailors. The Church commemorates Saint Nicholas on December 6th, as well as May 9th, (the transfer of his relics), and July 29th, (his nativity). He is widely popular in the Church, and around the world, and is the basis for the Santa Claus legend. He is also the patron Saint of Countries, (notably Greece and Russia), and other causes.
He was born to wealthy parents, and according to tradition, even as an infant, he used to fast from his mother’s breasts on Wednesday and Friday until the evening. He excelled in virtue, fasts, prayers, and vigils, and liked to perform many giving acts of kindness in secret, so that he would have his reward in heaven.
One story relates how there were three unfortunate daughters of a noble man. The man did not have enough for a dowry, but as the age of marriage approached for the oldest daughter, Saint Nicholas secretly supplied a bag of gold for this purpose. The daughter soon married, and as the time for the second daughter approached, again, the Saint gave secretly in largesse. Determined to discover giver’s identity, the father watched closely, when his third daughters time approached. It was then he learned it was Saint Nicholas, who, it is said, dropped a bag of gold down through the chimney and it fell into a stocking that was hung to dry.
When his parents died, Saint Nicholas gave away his inheritance to the needy. As folks immigrated to America, Santa Claus the legend began to take form. With Christmas as the time of giving, no doubt many of these Christian immigrants prayed to Saint Nicholas for safe passage across the oceans. The dutch referred to him as “Sinterklaas”, and in time the legend of Santa Claus grew in popularity as the Germans and the Nordic immigrants as well as others came to America.
At this time, sleighs were in use as transport, and thus, Santa Claus was given a sleigh, and the rest is history, with all due brevity.
But my story about Saint Nicholas doesn’t end there. I have a personal experience I would like to relate. Not only is our Metropolitan named Nicholas; but also my godfather in the Church is Nicholas, as well as some of my friends.
But long before I knew them, (when I lived in North Carolina), I was in need of an Orthodox Bible. It was actually a study bible, and I was a catechumen, and new to the Church. I wanted to learn all I could from it. Previously, I had been a protestant, so there were new books of the Bible that opened up to me to study as well. They are known as deuterocanonical.
I knew the Bible cost $40, and as usual, money was scarce. We had to save for it, and when the time came I called the Priest in Asheville, (which was about 45 minutes drive), and said I would like to procure one if they had one available. He said he did, so Anastasia and I set out to buy it. On the way, we stopped at a favorite restaurant of ours, to buy some bread as carry out. It was Frank’s Roman Pizza. To this day, I miss that bread.
Now the O.S.B., (Orthodox Study Bible), had only recently been released in full, so I was very excited. As we came out of Frank’s, we decided to go next door to the Goodwill store, and look at their wares, as is our custom to do. I love to peruse the old books, and find deals there, and so does my cousin. Well, I went straight to the books, and began looking, and do you know what I found? That’s right, a new Orthodox Study Bible. I was so happy, and I bought it immediately and called the Priest telling him my story, and he said a blessing for us both.
I had paid about $1.00 I think, if I recall correctly. As we got in the car to go home, I looked inside, and there was an unmarked card. I opened it to see a picture of Saint Nicholas, giving three bags of gold to the stockings of the 3 sisters. It also contained a $20 bill. Amazed at this, I thanked the Lord instantly, as well as Saint Nicholas.
So, the truth is Saint Nicholas exists, as well as all the Saints, and our dear Lord.
For the Cy-Times Gazette, this is Cyprian Kane, (C. N. Kane), wishing you, on behalf of my family to yours, a very merry Christmas, God’s blessings, and a happy new year. Peace be to men of goodwill.