By Caroline Clemmons
I hope you’re sitting with your feet up, content as you savor memories of your Christmas celebration. This month, several of us have brought you ways Christmas was celebrated. Because I love this time of year, I thought I’d give you a review of the book THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SANTA CLAUS, as told to Jeff Guinn. Although it isn’t specific to west of the Mississippi River, this book review fits our theme.
I added this paragraph to those of Jeff Guinn:
Saint Nicholas was born circa 280 in Patara, Lycia, an area that is part of present-day Turkey. He lost both of his parents as a young man and reportedly used his inheritance to help the poor and sick. A devout Christian, he later served as bishop of Myra, a city that is now called Demre.
I was relieved to learn the Santa Claus/Saint Nicholas tradition was not a marketing ploy concocted by Madison Avenue. While Bishop Nicholas, he really did go about giving gifts. Okay, he didn’t crawl down the chimney. Homes didn’t 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 father was considering selling the girls into prostitution. Taking pity on the girls, Saint Nicholas either (1) tossed bags of gold through the window (the poor didn’t have glass in their windows) or (2) put the coins in the stockings the girls left drying by the fire each night. Thus, the girls were able to marry (and, hopefully, each got a second pair of stockings).
Saint Nicholas was an actual person who 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.
- Remarkable that doing what was right created so much notoriety and controversy and gave him a permanent place in history.
- Remarkable that we continue his legacy by giving to those we love and, hopefully, to those in need.
Several sources report his death as December 6, 343. Over the years, stories of his miracles and his work for the poor spread. Saint Nicholas became known as the protector of children and sailors and was associated with gift-giving.
Whether you call him Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, thanks for continuing his legacy.