Tradition is like a wrapper, under which there could be a truth or a myth or a mixture of both. Unpacking tradition is helpful to understand the reason for the birth of a tradition. Santa Claus is one such tradition.
St. Nicholas is believed to be a monk born around 280 AD in Patara, near Myra in modern Turkey. He came from a rich family and gave away all his inheritance to the poor. One popular legend tells how he saved three daughters who were being sold as slaves by their father by paying their dowry. The 6th of December is his the anniversary of his death and is celebrated as a feast day by the Roman Catholic church. The Protestant Reformation forbade veneration of saints, yet St. Nicholas continues to enjoy the same status and attractiveness! In 1841 a shop in Philadelphia, USA created a life-size model of ‘Santa’ which attracted children and parents, naturally it spread all over. In the 1890s the Salvation Army dressed up young men as ‘Santas’ to raise funds by ringing bells in street corners.
While we were living in Chandigarh (1995), the Lion’s club president approached us to come and speak in their Christmas gathering. He told me specifically to speak about Santa Claus as people did not know anything about the story. I was surprised to see a gathering of over 200 men and women, none of them was a Christian. I unpacked the legend of Santa Claus and lead them from there to the great account of the Incarnation at Bethlehem – the birth of our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ. Traditions like Santa Claus have put a veil to the truth, however, it can also become an open door for sharing the truth.
Instead of just condemning Santa Claus and his followers let us push open doors to share the truth. Unpack traditions to share the Truth!
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Rev. Dr. J.N. Manokaran, (edited)
Image by Daniel Trump from Pixabay