Tuesday, December 20, 2011


By Caroline Clemmons

Here in North Central Texas, we’re prepared for what the weather forecaster says is a "cold front." Brrr. Where I'm from in West Texas, it's called, "Nothing between us and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence," because strong north winds chill as if coming off the frozen North Pole. How do those people in Siberia tolerate living there?

Ah, well, that’s a problem for another day. The good thing about this weather is that it makes Christmas seem nearer.  Heavens, it IS near and careening toward us like the fictional train, the Polar Express. Yikes!

But this is my favorite week of the entire year! I love the excitement,  anticipation, and preparations for Christmas. Our tree looks lovely and our house is decorated. But there's the candymaking to finish and more cookies to bake...How will I get everything done by Christmas Eve? Either I’ll be late with some things for this year—or maybe I’ll be very early for next year.

Saint Nicholas
I'm not the only one who loves this week of the year. Old and young are counting off the days until Santa arives.

You do believe in Santa, don't you?

Did you know Saint Nicholas or Nikolaos was a real person? He was the Bishop of Myra (part of present day Turkey) in the fourth century. Imprisoned and beaten for his faith, he was finally released and even attended the famous Council of Niceaea in 345 AD. Appropriately for the "jolly old Saint Nicholas" he's become, he's especially revered for his protection of children. Many stories are of him saving a child or children. Sailors also pray to him for protection. His Saint Day is celebrated on December 6th. He's also referred to as Nicholas the Wonderworker.

But wait...this is not a religious blog! Sweethearts of the West is a western blog. Although it's true Santa Claus is not strictly western, Jeff Guinn certainly is.

Jeff Guinn
Jeff is a full-time novelist now, but for many years he was a teacher and Books Editor for The Fort Worth Star Telegram. His is not a new book, but came out in 2003. In fact, Jeff Guinn now has three follow-up books available on Santa and Mrs. Claus, as well as many other novels on western history. I read this first of the Santa series several years ago. Don’t worry, this review does not contain spoilers. ;-)


I was relieved to learn from this autobiography that the Santa Claus/Saint Nicholas tradition was not merely a marketing ploy concocted by Madison Avenue. But they do make the most of Santa Claus, don't they?

There really was a Saint Nicholas! And he really did go about giving gifts! Okay, he didn’t crawl down chimneys. That part is not true. Homes didn’t even have actual chimneys as we know them back then. Many just had a hole in the roof. Not too cozy in bad weather!

Saint Nicholas’ first known gifts were to the daughters of a very poor man. They couldn’t marry without a dowry, but their father had none to offer. The girls only had one pair of stockings each, so every night they washed their stockings and hung them by the fire to dry overnight. Taking pity on the girls, Saint Nicholas either (1) tossed bags of gold through the window or (2) put the coins in the stockings the girls left drying by the fire. Thus, the girls were able to marry (and, hopefully, each acquired a second pair of stockings!).

[Note: *For a possible second part of the story of gold in the stockings, please refer to the December 12th post by Paty Jager.]

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SANTA CLAUS is a good book to read to children at the age where they harbor doubts about Santa, but I also enjoyed this book. I like the fact that Saint Nicholas continually worked to better the lives of those with whom he came in contact. I like the fact that this good man has become a saint whose life is still celebrated. I love that he tried to help people in secret rather than seek recognition.

Saint Nicholas went around giving to the poor and helping all those he could. In other words, he did what we’re all supposed to do.

Remarkable that he did what he could in a time when the poor were looked down upon and mistreated. Oh, wait, they often still are. aren't they?

Remarkable that doing what was right created so much notoriety and controversy, yet gave him a permanent place in history.

Remarkable that we continue his legacy by giving to those we love and, hopefully, also to those in need.

Whether you call him Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, thanks for continuing his legacy by sharing with others.

I do believe in Santa Claus! His spirit lives on in the good works of people like you, dear readers.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hannukkah, here's hoping you and yours have a wonderful holy season!


  1. Lovely, Caroline. I really like those old photos--beautiful. I didn't know there was a real St. Nicholas.
    I hope we all have a bit of belief in Santa Claus...the mystique of the whole season is made even richer.
    I believed in Santa Claus long after I should have, with my little sister telling me it was just a story. Boo-hoo.
    Thanks for this post...it was sooooo good.
    And Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  2. Caroline,
    Enjoyed your post about St. Nicholas so much. I'm sure that he and people like him who give to others are rewarded many times over. It's a mysterious thing that happens when you give. It seems to me that the universe rushes to repay the giver.

    Happy Holidays!


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