I want to tell you about the Family Home Evening that we had a few weeks ago with our kids. The topic was Santa Claus. We started off (after the song and prayer) by talking about how we feel when we think about Santa Claus [happy, like we want to be good]. Then I asked what we celebrate at Christmas [Jesus' birth]. So, if we are celebrating Jesus Christ's birth, then where did Santa come from? Enter our trusty set of World Book Encyclopedias! (Thank you Sister Kelly!) We looked up Santa Claus. I won't copy the full text here, but I will pick out some of the main points that we talked about from there.
"Santa Claus is a legendary old man who brings gifts to children at Christmas.[...] The legend of Santa Claus is popular mainly in the United States. This story adds to youngsters' excitement and wonder at Christmastime.
The idea of Santa Claus developed from stories about a real person named Saint Nicholas. Historians know little for certain about him. He probably was born in Patara, in what is now Turkey. When he was 19 years old, he became a priest. He later served as bishop of Myra, near Patara, and he died during the A.D. 300's.
According to legend, Saint Nicholas once aided a poor nobleman who had three daughters. No men would marry the daughters because the nobleman did not provide any of them with a dowry.[...] Saint Nicholas threw three bags of money through an open window of the nobleman's house to show that the daughters now had dowries. As a result they were able to marry. The legend of Saint Nicholas as a man who brings gifts may have developed from this story.
How the Santa Claus legend began. The custom of giving gifts on a special day in winter was practiced before Christianity was founded. After Christianity was well established, Saint Nicholas became a symbol of the custom among Christians. During the Reformation of the 1500's Protestants substituted non-religious characters for Saint Nicholas. In England, the saint was replaced by a gentleman called Father Christmas. This character was called Père Noël in France and Weihnachtsmann in Germany.
The people of the Netherlands were especially fond of Saint Nicholas. The first Dutch settlers who came to America had a figure of Saint Nicholas on the front of their ship. The Dutch settlers maintained their custom of celebrating the saint's feast day on December 6th. They told their children that the saint visited their homes and left gifts for the youngsters on Saint Nicholas Eve. In time, the English settlers adopted the legends and festivities associatede with Saint Nicholas. English-speaking children spoke the Dutch name for the saint, Sinterklaas, quickly and excitedly so that it sounded like Santy Claus or Santa Claus. Eventually, Santa Claus became the most commonly used name.
[...] Santalike characters in other countries. Today, people in many parts of the world are familiar with Santa Claus. But [sic] he is primarily and American tradition, and people in most countries have adopted other imaginary characters who supposedly bring gifts on a certain day of the year. In many countries, people exchange presents on a day other than Christmas.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, Saint Nicholas visits homes on Saint Nicholas Eve, December 5. He leaves small gifts in shoes that the children put near the fireplace. He is often accompanied on these visits by a character named Black Pete, who carries a birch rod to whip naughty children. (I think maybe we should adopt this tradition! lol!) [...] In some areas of Germany, gifts are delivered by Knecht Ruprecht or the Christkind. From the name Christkind came the character Kris Kringle, the angellike figure who brings gifts at Christmas. [...] In Sweden, the Jultomten, an elflike character, brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. This elf is called Julenissen in Denmark and Norway."
Then, since Papi is from Mexico, we talked about the tradition in Mexico of the Three Kings coming on January 6th and bringing presents to children. On Christmas Eve the children would go on a Posada from house to house at midnight asking for candy. (Sounds kind of like Trick-or-Treating, doesn't it?)
So to sum it up, we talked about why people in different countries have these different traditions... and that all of these figures are symbols which represent good will and joy. So even though Santa Claus is not an actual person who comes around and gives presents, we still participate and "play along", if you will, with the traditions, but that we need to remember and focus on the real reason for the Season. We also emphasized that because Santa Claus is to symbolize good feelings and joy, we never want to make someone feel bad because they believe that Santa Claus is an actual person, so we don't tell people that there is no Santa Claus (especially younger neighbors!) and we can still have fun with Santa at Christmas, (My dad, to this day, sends me presents every year that say from Santa!) and when I ask them what they want Santa to bring them, what I am asking is what is something that they would like that maybe Mom and Dad wouldn't usually get them. (But no promises! lol!)
Our kids' reactions varied... the older ones had questions... [You mean YOU bought us those scooters last year? We didn't think you had that much money!, Who wrote us that letter from Santa?, Who eats the cookies and milk left out?] Our 5 year-old was obviously not ready to hear it and didn't let much sink in, since she still wants to know when Santa is coming and what he is going to bring her. :) But I feel so much better not having to hear my 7 and 9 year-olds telling me confidently that Santa is going to get them a $150 Nintendo DS, or an iPod (yeah, fat chance!) and the gift requests have come back down into the range of possibility, and so we all avoid disappointment.
What do you think, when and how did your kids find out about Santa Claus and the "parent factor"?
Labels: Christmas, Santa Claus