What do you do when your child asks, “Is Santa Claus real?”
The answer is “YES.” Santa Claus may not fly around on a sleigh and drop off toys to children around the world but he did bring us important gifts and still does as a spiritual inspiration to millions of people.
The true mean of Christmas, whatever your faith may be, is enshrined in the three virtues of St. Nicholas: Selflessness, Compassion to Children, and Submission to the will of God.
About three hundred years after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Nicholas was born into a wealthy Greek family in what is nowTurkey. At the time this region was part of the Roman Empire.
Nicholas’ life promised to be one of happiness and privilege but he lost both of his parents to the plague. Nicholas was devastated by grief. Yet instead of succumbing to the pleasures which wealth can bring, he remembered what his mother had taught him about Jesus. He decided to sell his material possessions to help the poor and to follow a religious life. Nicholas joined the clergy and due to his intensely spiritual, pious, and giving nature rose quickly to the rank of Bishop.
COMPASSION TO CHILDREN
Bishop Nicholas spoke out against slavery. He was saddened when he heard of a man too poor to provide his daughters a dowry for their marriages. This meant these young girls would have to be sold into slavery as the family could not afford them. Mysteriously, on three nights, bags of gold were flung through the family’s open window. It was said the gold landed on stockings and shoes left near the fireplace to dry. The girls had a dowry and were saved from a life of slavery. This is the basis for the belief Santa Claus delivers presents in the middle of the night.
SUBMISSION TO THE WILL OF GOD
Bishop Nicholas and his fellow Christians though were persecuted by theRoman Empireunder the tyrannical Emperor Diocletian. He was arrested and imprisoned. The dungeons of theRoman Empirewere a desperate place indeed, yet instead of succumbing to fear, Bishop Nicholas saw an opportunity to continue his work in the service of God. He ministered to the hopeless and the sick. He taught the criminals to turn away from a life of crime.
After Diocletian’s death, Bishop Nicholas was freed. He became a powerful voice for the growing Christian religion and even attended the first Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. which established Christianity as the new religion of the Roman Empire.
Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 A.D. in the city ofMyra. According to legend his body exuded oil, called manna, which is reputed to have healing powers. Eventually his body was moved to Bari, Italy. To this day, it is reported that manna flows from his bones.
After his death, Bishop Nicholas was proclaimed a Saint. Tales of St. Nicholas’ goodness spread throughout many parts of the world. Through translation from one language to the next, St. Nicholas became “Sinter Klaus” and eventually in modern America, “Santa Claus.”
The gifts of St. Nicholas are the three virtues he lived by: selflessness, compassion for children and submission to the will of God. If we accept these virtues, St. Nicholas may continue to be a living spiritual influence in our lives, and that is why Santa Claus is real.