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St. Nicholas belongs in any reclamation of Christmas ^ | December 6, 2003 | Terry Mattingly

Posted on 12/06/2003 10:41:08 AM PST by Destro

St. Nicholas belongs in any reclamation of Christmas

By Terry Mattingly, Scripps Howard News Service

December 6, 2003

The bureaucrats charged with turning Russia into a godless utopia had a December dilemma and a big part of their problem was St. Nicholas.

The early Communists needed to purge Christmas of its savior, sacraments and beloved symbols, including this patron saint of widows and children. What they needed was a faith-free icon for a safe, secular New Year's season. Digging into pre-Christian Slavic legends, they found their superman - Father Frost.

"It's so ironic," said the Rev. James Parker III of Louisville, Ky. In order to wrest control of Christmas, "one of the things the Communists had to do was to get people to forget the real St. Nicholas. ... Here in America we've forgotten all about the real St. Nicholas because he has turned into this Santa Claus guy. It's like we're taking a different route to the same place."

It would not be unusual to hear Eastern Orthodox, Catholic or Anglican clergy voice these sentiments in the days leading to Dec. 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas, the fourth-century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor. Parker, however, is associate dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Still, he is convinced it's time for more churches - even Southern Baptist churches - to embrace the real St. Nicholas.

"I have often wondered how a Martian reporter would do a story on Christmas," he wrote in a Baptist Press commentary. "If one only had the dominant cultural icons of TV, movies, news media and retail stores, my guess is that the Martian viewing audience wouldn't have a clue as to what Christmas was about.

"They might think it had something to do with snowmen or reindeer or retail-store sales. And if any particular person rose to the top in the public's conscious awareness, it would be a jolly secular guy at risk for stroke or cardiac arrest who liked to dress in red and let his beard grow."

Rather than whine about what has happened to St. Nicholas, more churches need to "remythologize" this hero of the faith, said Parker.

Little solid historical information is known about Nicholas, except that he was born into a wealthy family and, after the early death of his pious parents, he entered a monastery and became a bishop. Some early writers claim he participated in the Council of Nicea and, when theological debate failed, that he punched a heretic who argued that Jesus was not fully divine.

"The mental image of Santa Claus punching out Arius ... has to fundamentally change the way one would ever see Santa Claus again," said Parker. "While I might not agree with his methods, I certainly admire his passion for Christological orthodoxy."

Nicholas was imprisoned under the Emperor Diocletian, tortured and then hailed as a "confessor" because he refused to renounce his faith. He was released under Constantine and died around A.D. 350.

Another detail in accounts of his life is that Nicholas gave away his inheritance helping the poor. One famous icon shows him taking small bags of gold to parents who could not provide dowries for their daughters, which meant they could not marry. Thus, the bishop would rescue the girls from lives as slaves or prostitutes by dropping gold coins through their windows during the night. These gifts often fell into their stockings, which were hung up to dry.

This unforgettable image was especially popular with children. Through the centuries, this story blended with other legends in other lands. The result was Father Christmas, Pere Noel and many others, including Sinter Klaas, who came with the Dutch to New York City.

Now Santa is everywhere, the smiling face on one of American culture's most popular exports - the holiday season formerly known as Christmas.

"In the circles that I run in, people can get pretty worked up about things like this," said Parker. "These are the people who keep saying that they want to put Christ back into Christmas. So while they're doing that, why not put the real St. Nicholas back into the picture as well. He was a bishop. He cared for the poor. He was a great Christian leader who defended the faith.

"That's all good, isn't it? Wouldn't it be good to reclaim that?"

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events; Russia
KEYWORDS: christmas; communists; leftists; stnicholas
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1 posted on 12/06/2003 10:41:09 AM PST by Destro
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To: Destro
2 posted on 12/06/2003 10:46:45 AM PST by MegaSilver
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To: Destro
3 posted on 12/06/2003 10:46:59 AM PST by polemikos (Pray Now, Pray Often)
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To: Destro
Another similar thread on the subject:
4 posted on 12/06/2003 10:48:14 AM PST by July 4th (George W. Bush, Avenger of the Bones)
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To: Destro
Some early writers claim he participated in the Council of Nicea and, when theological debate failed, that he punched a heretic who argued that Jesus was not fully divine.

My understanding of the Nicaean council is that no one argued the divinity of Jesus, full or otherwise. Instead, they quibbled over whether he had been divine for all eternity, co-existent with God, or had achieved divinity within temporal constraints, after the fact. They were torturing and burning each other at the stake for many years afterward, over the same quibbling point.

5 posted on 12/06/2003 10:49:09 AM PST by Agnes Heep
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To: MegaSilver; Destro
Was he Greek or Lydian or Jewish or ?
6 posted on 12/06/2003 10:49:53 AM PST by Cronos (W2004)
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To: Cronos
7 posted on 12/06/2003 10:51:28 AM PST by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting
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To: Cronos

Parents, often without even realizing it, have been teaching their children the following things
about Santa Claus:


He knows how children behave throughout the year. The familiar song says, "He knows if we've
been good or bad." Also he knows exactly what children want for Christmas even if the child
does not have an opportunity to tell him personally.


No storm is too great to hinder Santa from performing his annual miracle of delivering gifts
throughout the world. He also defies the laws of nature by flying and by coming down the
narrowest (and hottest!) of chimneys! Nor should we forget his amazing ability to produce
millions of gifts throughout the year. Is anything too hard for Santa? With Santa all things
are possible!


To visit every home in the world in one evening requires nothing less than omnipresence! Every
child in the world can wake up in the morning and say, "Santa has been here! Santa was present
in my home!" Prior to Christmas Santa also appears at hundreds of street corners and shopping
centers throughout the country at the same time!


You can always count on Santa! Santa never fails and he never breaks his word. When Santa
makes a promise he keeps it! When he promises a child a gift, that child will never be
disappointed. Children are fully persuaded that what Santa has promised he is able also to
perform. The child that believes in Santa will not be put to shame! Santa is totally dependable
and trustworthy!


Santa with his white beard and weather-beaten face is the very essence of eternity. Year after
year goes by and Santa grows no older. Generations have come and gone but Santa is still here.
His life is endless and Santa cannot die. To Santa belongs an unending life.


Yesterday, today, forever Santa is the same! He never seems to change. He is always happy!
He is always jolly. He is always kind to children. In a changing world you can always count on
Santa being Santa!


Santa loves all the boys and girls in the world. Santa is no respecter of persons. He loves them
all--red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.


All that Santa does is right! He makes no mistakes. He does all things well. Every child's
stocking contains exactly the right thing.


Santa showers his blessings upon all. Every good and perfect gift comes from Santa. He is the
supreme GIVER of Christmas. It is Santa who brings the best gift of all!


On Christmas Eve Santa is in complete control of the situation. Circumstances do not phase him
(such as storms, sizes of chimneys, red-hot fire places, etc.). He is the King of Christmas!


Santa is coming to town. You better be ready! You better watch out! You better be good!
He's coming! Are you prepared when Santa comes to reward every boy or girl according to his
work? Millions of boys and girls each year wait with eager expectancy for the glorious appearing
of the great Santa god. What a blessed hope for countless numbers of children! His reward is
with him! What a comforting hope the boys and girls have as they prepare for his coming! And
during the night he may come at any time. Even so, come, Santa Claus!


Santa is worshipped and loved by thousands of children the world around. Children love him so
much that all through the year they seek to please him in such a way that when they see him they
will not be ashamed. O come let us adore HIM!
[Parents, is this the god you want your children to know and love? Is it important to tell our
children the truth even when they are very young? What have you taught your children about the
TRUE GOD, and His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you taught them who the Great
GIVER of Christmas is (John 3:16)? Do they know about the gift of God which is eternal life
(Rom. 6:23)?]

The Middletown Bible Church, 349 East Street, Middletown, CT 06457 (USA).

Phone: (860) 346-0907. Web-site:
8 posted on 12/06/2003 10:55:16 AM PST by RaceBannon
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To: RaceBannon
Blame late 18th century dept store promotions-don't blame St. Nick who is also wronged with what has come about.
9 posted on 12/06/2003 11:00:58 AM PST by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting
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To: Destro
Excellent post.
10 posted on 12/06/2003 11:23:12 AM PST by peter the great
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To: Destro
My kids faithfully put out their shoes on the eve of December 5th, only to find it filled with sweets the next morning by Saint Nicholas. Of course they also leave a carrot and some green sprigs for his donkey to munch on.
11 posted on 12/06/2003 11:33:15 AM PST by Katya
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To: Katya; MarMema
We do the same in our house, with the exception that those of us on the Julian Calendar do so the night of December 18. We have always had the story of St. Nicholas, Greek Orthodox Bishop of Myra in Lycia (Asia Minor, later conquered by the Turks).

Little known fact: Terry Mattingly , whose article appears above and in 400 newspapers' religion sections, is Orthodox Christian, and we met him at our church a couple of years ago!

12 posted on 12/06/2003 12:41:25 PM PST by wildandcrazyrussian
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To: Destro
Yes, the loss of the belief in Santa is a universal yardstick of personal maturity founded on a very real conspiracy of adults. So cynical at the base of it, and arguably cruel.

I agree with the author that the mythological aspects of this icon should be tempered with the historical and cultural history, also. When 'Santa" is presented as a mulifaceted concept like this I believe a little less crime and meanness would be running loose.

Now excuse me. Got a date with the Tooth Fairy and she has unique ways of showing her displeasure when you're late.
13 posted on 12/06/2003 12:43:00 PM PST by NewRomeTacitus ("...I put away childish things." Now that was one sad fellow.)
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Comment #14 Removed by Moderator

To: Romulus
15 posted on 12/06/2003 1:38:48 PM PST by aposiopetic
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To: Destro
Life of Saint Nicholas the Bishop, from The Golden Legend compiled by Jacobus de Voragine

Yes, There Really is a St. Nicholas !

Don't forget: St. Nicholas' Day is tomorrow (get your shoes out!)

16 posted on 12/06/2003 1:49:10 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Katya
How wonderful! My kids are grown but that always ushered in Christmas anticipation along with the Advent Calendar.

The only problem I had when growing up was explaining to my elementary school classmates that St. Nicholas came on December 6!

17 posted on 12/06/2003 1:50:07 PM PST by OpusatFR (If you don't like our laws, live in accordance with our laws, and believe in oun way of life: leave)
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To: Salvation; Destro
St Nicholas is a myth. No evidence of his existance

based on the Greek god Posiedin

The St Nick legend was spun by the Church in the 9th century when they needed a Christmas god to replace the true Lord of the Winter Festival, the YuleFather Odin.

18 posted on 12/06/2003 2:31:01 PM PST by Oztrich Boy ("Noöne has the right not to be offended" John Cleese)
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To: Destro
Thanks, Destro - I was just telling my spouse this whole story yesterday and here it is with the details I coudn't quite remember!
19 posted on 12/06/2003 2:34:42 PM PST by little jeremiah
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To: Oztrich Boy
Was St. Nicholas A Real Person?

Some say St. Nicholas existed only in legend, without any reliable historical record. Legends usually do grow out of real, actual events, though they may be embellished to make more interesting stories. Many of the St. Nicholas stories seem to be truth interwoven with imagination. However, the following facts of the life of St. Nicholas could contain some part of historical truth. They provide a clear sense of his personal characteristics which are further elaborated in other narratives.

Nicholas' birth in Patara

Though the exact date is not known, it is believed to have occurred between 260 and 280 AD. The place, Patara, can be historically grounded.

Dowries for the poor girls

This story can be regarded as historical in its essence. There are three very ancient accounts which only differ in regard to the number of maidens and other detail. This event reveals important aspects of St. Nicholas's personality, namely, his charitable nature and humility.

Popular election as Bishop of Myra

Unusual though it was for a layman to be nominated to the position of bishop, two sources corroborate the story.

Participation in the Council of Nicaea

Although Bishop Nicholas does not appear on all lists of attenders, his name appears on the oldest Greek list and on five other lists.

Saving three condemned innocents

This story is the oldest and most genuine recorded episode from the life of St. Nicholas. Historical documentation confirms the many references to place names and people. Some versions expand the account to include the story of the three generals.

Intervention in favor of the unjustly jailed

The outstanding figures in this solidly structured story are well known in other contemporary accounts, where they are portrayed in similar ways.

Destruction of the Temple of Artemis

This account reveals knowledge of detail concerning the temple which would have been unknown to a writer several centuries later had it not been based on an account coming out of the people and traditions of that city.

Mariners saved during a tempest

The episode is important to explain the origin of his wide-spread patronage to sailors and other sea voyagers.

The ancient sources cited to substantiate this information are Michael the Archimandrite, Sinaitic and Ethiopian manuscripts, Gratianus' Decretum, Theodore the Lector, Andrew of Crete, Eustratios of Constantinople, 583 AD; Passionarium Romanum, 650 AD; and Praxis de tributo.

Cioffari, P. Gerardo, O.P., "The Truth About Saint Nicholas: The Most Ancient Texts in the Light of Recent Historical Criticism," Bollettino di San Nicola, November-December 1997

Cioffari, P. Gerardo, O.P., Saint Nicholas: His Life, the Translation of his Relics and his Basilica in Bari, translated by Philip L. Barnes, Centro Studi Nicolaiani, Bari, Italy, 1994

20 posted on 12/06/2003 2:55:59 PM PST by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting
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