Honestly, I am starting to get a little annoyed. Before I started this songs of Christmas series, I wrote out the list of Christmas songs I would use. There are some great songs on there that I can’t wait to get to. I have great stuff planned for “O Come Immanuel, Mary Did You Know, What Child Is This, Go Tell It On The Mountain, etc” Instead, that stupid generator seems to be picking out all the fluff songs I used to fill out my list. Don’t get me wrong, Let It Snow, White Christmas, and today’s Winter Wonderland are fun cute songs but they aren’t the ones I had in mind when I started this list.
Honestly, “Walking in a winter wonderland” is not by any stretch of my imagination a fun thing to do. Glistening snow is beautiful to look at from inside a warm house, but certainly not when you are walking in it. Those little white flakes of evil falling down will never be a “beautiful sight” that makes me “happy tonight” and it is certainly not something in which I want to “frolic and play the eskimo way”. That said, I do love a good walk when the weather is up for it and probably the best winter walk I ever had was last year when I visited Santa’s home.
Before I start pulling out my pictures of that, have you ever wondered how the true historical figure became the Santa Claus we have today? Much of what we have does actually come from a modern day retelling of the actual man, Saint Nikolaus the Bishop of Myra who lived some seventeen hundred years ago in southern Turkey. We know that he did come from a wealthy family, and that he gave away everything he had to the poor. It is difficult to separate history from myth but the stories are pervasive that as bishop he would adopt young orphans and as his fame grew he would use them to give gifts away to the poor so that no one would knew from where it came. These boys were apparently adept at sneaking into houses and leaving gifts in socks hanging out to dry and such.
The jolly old fat man in red we venerate today along with the gross commercialism associated with Christmas both come to us courtesy of the New York City merchants association. Late in the 18th century this group voted Saint Nick to be the patron saint of the city. At this time a large percentage of the city was Dutch and Sinter Klaas, his Dutch name, gradually became the Santa Claus we have today. The association quickly began advertising for people to buy and give gifts during this holiday just as good old St Nik did. In 1822 a poem Rev CC Moore wrote for his kids was published that popularized many of the legends we now have. By 1841, merchants in other cities were jumping on this cash cow and a major store in Philadelphia created a life size statue of Santa Claus for people to come see while they shopped. A generation later, the Salvation Army was dressing up unemployed men in St Nik costumes to raise funds for their work for the poor, and there you have it. The ever evolving legend of Saint Nikolaus in two paragraphs or less.
Last Christmas I had the opportunity to visit the real place where the real man lived and worked and it was beautiful. I will only throw a few pictures up here but feel free to check out these links if you want the whole story of my visit to the cathedral and the town.
This season may your feet find you walking in directions you never dreamed possible. May you follow in the footsteps of legends who faithfully served our Lord. May they take you to places where people need the good you can offer. May the direction of your steps, the work of your hands, and the words that you speak all be a gift to those in need. May you find joy in the going and the giving just as one greater than Saint Nik came and gave that we might be free.