Tag Archives: Santa

Santa and the True Spirit of Christmas


Note: This article was originally written in 1994, published in The Annals of Saint Anne and later in Active Christian News and on Doing Life Together.


A portly man with a white beard, wearing a flannel shirt and suspender-supported blue jeans, pumped gas into his car. My then two-year-old son Matthew watched through the car window.

“Who is that, Matt?” I asked.

“Santa,” he whispered.

The man noticed Matthew’s peering eyes and waved.

We saw the man again a year later as he exited a delicatessen we were approaching. This time he wore a tuxedo with a shocking pink bow tie and cummerbund. Perhaps this was the day of his daughter’s wedding.

“Who is that, Matt?”


As we passed, the man winked at Matthew and asked me, “Has he been good?” Obviously, he knew whom he resembled and enjoyed playing the part.

Every December, the man spent his free time attending preschool and Sunday school Christmas parties. He assumed the role of guest of honor at my children’s preschool. Wearing a finely tailored red velvet suit and cap trimmed in white plush, with black leather belt and boots, wire-rimmed glasses, white gloves, rouged cheeks, and his home-grown full white beard, he appeared to be the genuine article, not a department store imitation.

He listened attentively to the children’s requests, commenting on their wishes. When someone asked for a popular toy in short supply, I heard him reply, “Well, Mike, I’ll try. I’ve had a lot of orders for that one, and I’ve got my elves working overtime, but I can’t guarantee I’ll have it in time. Please don’t be disappointed if I leave you something else instead.”

Though he was willing to provide his services for free, when payment was offered to him, he said, “Thank you. I’ll send this right out to the American Cancer Society.”

Some might say the man really epitomizes the spirit of Christmas. Yet, he’s a mere caricature of the original Saint Nicholas, the legendary fourth century archbishop of Myra in Asia Minor (now Turkey).


As the story goes, a poor man had three daughters, for whom he could not provide dowries. He agonized over their fates should he die. With no father, brothers, or husbands to support them, they were doomed to lives of poverty and degradation.

Nicholas, aware of the poor man’s dilemma, tossed three sacks of gold through the family’s window in the middle of the night.

Out of this folklore grew the custom of surreptitious gifts on Saint Nicholas’ Day, December 6. Eventually, someone (no doubt an advertising executive) got the bright idea of combining Saint Nicholas gift-giving with the celebration of Christmas.

Sadly, many people measure their self-worth by the quantity of presents they receive. Nothing could be more pitiful than not getting any gifts at all. Feeling guilty about the poor and the homeless who might not experience any Christmas bounty, we look for ways we can contribute.

Charities increase their appeals during the Christmas season. Many collect more money during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than during the whole rest of the year.

All December long we hear about individuals or corporations who provide gifts to needy families, thereby demonstrating the “true spirit of Christmas.” We hear about scout troops that donate toys to hospitalized children, and youth groups that sing carols at retirement homes. We sigh and say, “Ah, that’s what Christmas is all about.”

Sadly, the same shelters and food banks that were inundated with offers of good cheer in December get almost no attention in January or August.

The original Nicholas gave three dowry-deprived girls what they needed for a bright future. He wasn’t merely concerned with giving toys to underprivileged children. His motivation was changing lives, bringing hope where there had been despair.

Nicholas’ own model was Jesus, the man whose birth we celebrate on December 25. Jesus described His life’s goal with these words: “…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10: 10b ESV). The abundant life Jesus offers is eternal life, with God, not earthly possessions.

And that’s the true spirit of Christmas.


Guest Post: Santa and Me…by Linda McQuinn Carlblom

Guest Post: Santa and Me…by Linda McQuinn Carlblom

This article first appeared last year on Parenting With a Smile.

Though I titled this post Santa and me, I’m not sure we actually have a relationship. Sorry. Santa and I have had an on again, off again relationship most of my life. More off than on, really. I don’t have any ill feelings toward the jolly old elf, but I was never enamored with him like some kids are.

While growing up, my parents always taught us that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday and that’s why we celebrate. I never once felt like I missed out by not being fed the whole Santa Claus story. I still got gifts, but they were from people I loved like my parents, siblings, and grandparents. To me, that was more special than getting them from someone I didn’t know who dressed in a funny red suit.

I never had to go through the trauma of learning that Santa wasn’t real. I’d never believed in him to begin with. It wasn’t that my parents bad-mouthed the guy or said we couldn’t believe in him. It just wasn’t our focus. He was just another decoration, like Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph. Jesus was the real deal and our attention was on Him.

As a child, I loved babies. I loved the Bible story of baby Moses being hidden in the reeds and guarded by his big sister, Miriam. My love of babies also extended to the baby Jesus figurine in our nativity set. He was so cute! I loved him before I understood the significance of who He was.

And maybe that’s the point. Decorations like the nativity scene silently point families to Jesus, the reason for our Christmas celebration. They cultivate something deep in a child (and adults!) that gives them hope. This hope isn’t just for Christmas morning like the kind Santa offers. It’s hope that lasts through all of life and its crazy ups and downs. It hands out love like the gift it is, wrapped in a swaddling cloth, lying in a manger.

Santa is jolly, Jesus is joy. Santa is temporary, Jesus is forever. Santa keeps a list of our wrongs, Jesus wiped them away on the cross. Santa rides in a reindeer-pulled sleigh, Jesus will one day return on a cloud, no vehicle required.

So Santa and me? I’m so over him. But Jesus and me? Yeah. We’re a forever thing.

Where do things stand between you and Santa? More importantly, where do things stand with you and Jesus?