There is a lot of talk about how Christmas is becoming more and more of a secular holiday and the one who is usually most to blame is…Santa Claus.
Call him Santa Claus or St. Nicolas or Kris Kringle, it doesn’t really matter. He is the one who takes our focus away from the baby Jesus and puts it on consumerism and celebrating winter rather than the miracle of Bethlehem. He is akin to the Easter Bunny pulling us away from the power of the resurrection.
It is funny that this should be the battle cry of those who want to make sure that we put “Christ back in Christmas” because Santa, it turns out, has everything to do with the birth of Christ.
Santa Claus is based on St. Nicolas who, as you may know, was an actual person. He was an early Christian Bishop who worked in the region of what is modern-day Turkey. Not much is known about him but many legends about his miraculous powers and his generosity have been passed down; not least his hiding coins in stockings. He also had a particular concern for children at a time when they had absolutely no social standing. Above all, he was a believer in Christ and his birth as the incarnation of God.
What is the relationship between St. Nicolas and Santa Claus? None really because they are the same person! Santa Claus is the anglicized Dutch version of “Saint Nicolas” (Sinter Klaas). In fact, if you break up the name “Santa Claus,” you will easily hear the name “Saint Nicolas”: “Sa-NI-Clas.”
Kris Kringle is even a closer tie to the manger in Bethlehem. Its origin is the early German phrase “Christkindl” or “Christ Child.” Pennsylvania Germans used the phrase “Christ-kinkle” which evolved into “Kris Kringle.” It was never meant to be a person’s name but when non-German speakers heard it, they assumed it was just that and connected it to the legends of Santa Claus and St. Nicolas.
So by all means let’s keep Christmas the religious holiday that it should be but let’s not blame Santa for secularizing it. Underneath it all, he is, in fact, another example of its Christian roots.
See you in church,