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Every Christmas now seems to be open
season on Santa Claus.
The kinfily, jolly, little old man of Christmas past is in danger of becoming scorned.
His smiling, bearded face and bis roly-
poly figure appear on whiskey posters, store
counters and commercial billboards and in
countless advertisements. His imitators
descend on jampacked shopping centers in
helicopters and pose bewildered children for
Far worse, Santa turns up in slick sexy
magazines with expensive baubles for young
ladies of no virtue. A new rock-and-roll hit
"My stocking's all hung so you can see,
"Don't hang vie up, Santa, lay some toys
Santa Claus Is becoming the symbolic
ruler.of a giveaway welfare state, whom no
politician would dare to shoot.
He has even been psychoanalyzed recently
as a Marxist "opium of little children," substituting for negligent parents in the role
of a benevolent despot demanding good behavior as the price of toys.
Historians of Christmas can traoe this
repelling Santa Claus back to the pagan god
Silenus, who presided over the annual Roman
orgy of Saturnalia.
That dishonored custom of observing
Christmas as a time for raucous, unbridled
revelry so revolted the Puritans that they
once banned Christmas observance. Christmas bad degenerated into something sensual,
material and corrupt It is similarly threatened today.
But happily, there is another tradition
of Santa Claus, holy and pure, in which
"good Christian men rejoice," in which all
men and women can join to praise.
That is the tradition of good Saint
Nicholas, patron saint of the poor, the op
pressed, the thief, the sinner, and especially
of children everywhere.
It is historic fact that Saint Nicholas was
Bishop of Myja in what is now Turkey in
the Fourth Century, nearly 1,700 years ago.
History then becomes tradition and
legend. Saint Nicholas, It is believed, was a
rich young man who devoted his life and
fortune to the service of others.
His miracles were many—the resurrection of three little boys cruelly butchered by
an evil innkeeper, the calming of a storm at
sea, the saving of thieves and political prisoners from execution, the rescue of a sailor
from slavery, his reappearances after death
to answer the prayers of those in peril.
The legend of his anonymous gifts of gold
as dowries for three impoverished young
women survives to this day in the symbols
of, first, banks and, later, pawnbrokers, and
of the Christmas stocking.
But Saint Nicholas is relevant to this day
in still deeper ways.
He was persecuted and imprisoned by the
anti-Christian Emperor Diocletian, but he remained steadfast in his faith.
He participated in the first great ecumenical council at Nicaea, which united the entire
church for centuries by re-establishing a central belief in the divinity of Christ.
He was a peacemaker in a turmoil-filled
time; and to this day in England, schoolboys
in a fight can obtain respite by crying
This, then, is the treasured symbolism and
spirit of Saint Nicholas—Saint Nick; Father
Christmas, Santa Klaus, Santa Claus. Those
distressed and depressed by an indulgent,
materialistic, bacchanalian Christmas can
turn to it for joy and renewed faith.
It lives — yes, this true spirit of Santa
Claus lives amid corruption and crime and
sacrilege and war.
It lives in the image of Mother and Child,
still the central focus of Christmas for millions upon millions of Christian believers
throughout the world
It survives in the teachings and example
of Jesus, who left the world a sacred heritage
respected in all religions.
It is reborn in each generation of children
who greet Christmas morning with unsullied
It is nutured by those who give generously
of their substance and their selves.
It sings in the carols and bells and religious services which brighten our hearts and
cleanse our souls.
It triumphs in those who, remembering
the Christmas message of "On earth, peace;
good will toward men/' strive to make that
peace and good will become a worldwide
May this blessed spirit of Santa Claus
live within you on Christmas Day!
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