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12/08/2005

FIGHTING SANTA CLAUS

Saint Nicholas is the common name for Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived in 4th century Byzantine Lycia, (modern Turkey), who had a reputation for secret gift-giving. This is as much as is generally known about him in the West. This historical character was the inspiration for a mythical figure known as Nikolaus in Germany and Sinterklaas in the Netherlands and Flanders, which in turn was the inspiration for the myth of Santa Claus. Among Orthodox Christians, he is remembered with more reverence and less frivolity. Saint Nicholas is revered by many as the patron saint of seamen, merchants, archers, children, prostitutes, pharmacists, lawyers, pawnbrokers, prisoners, the city of Amsterdam and of Russia.

In 324 Licinius was defeated in a war against his Western co-ruler Constantine I of the Roman Empire (reigned 306 - 337). The end of the war found the Roman Empire unified under the rule of Constantine. Under his patronage the Christian church experienced an age of prosperity. But the relative peace of his reign brought to the forefront the internal conflict within contemporary Christianity. One of the apparent main reasons of this conflict was the failure to agree to a commonly accepted concept about God in general and Jesus in particular. At this time the teachings of Arius in Alexandria, Egypt were gaining popular support but also attracting great opposition. They would form the basis of Arianism. Emerging fanaticism in both opposing factions only resulted in spreading tumult across the Empire.

Deciding to address the problem as a matter of the state, Constantine called the First Council of Nicaea which also was the first Ecumenical council in 325. The number of attendants at the council is uncertain with Eusebius of Caesarea reporting as few as 250 and Athanasius of Alexandria as many as 318. In any case Nicholas is usually counted among them and was noted as an opponent of Arianism (Arius taught that God the Father and the Son were not always contemporary, seeing the pre-incarnate Jesus as a divine being but nonetheless created by (and consequently inferior to) the Father at some point, before which the Son did not exist).

A later writer claimed that after Arius had presented his case against Jesus' divinity to the Council, Nicholas hit Arius in the face out of indignation. Nicholas was kicked out of the Council for this offence, and jailed as well. However, according to this account, that night the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision to many of the bishops of the Council, telling them to forgive Nicholas, for he had done it out of love for her Son. They released Nicholas and allowed him back into the process the next day.

The council lasted from May 20 to June 19, 325 and resulted in the declaration of the Nicene Creed and the formal condemnation of Arianism. The books of Arius and his followers were condemned to be burned but the execution of this decision was left at the hands of each bishop for their respective territories. To what point this decision was followed remains uncertain.

FOR MORE INFO CHECK OUT WIKIPEDIA'S SAINT NICHOLAS STUFF

21 Comments:

Blogger GrovesFan said...

Shaun,

Thanks for the history lesson. I didn't know about this at all. Just curious if you and Becky do the whole "Santa" thing with your kids (I know you shared the pic of Gresham dressed up as Santa). I think there can be a good balance between the true meaning of Christmas and WHO we're celebrating, along with the fun and mystery of Santa and his giving nature. Thoughts anyone?

Beth

BTW Shaun,
You'll be happy that you aren't in ND this week! Definitely not a balmy 50 degrees anymore. More like highs in the mid-teens and lows below 0. Need more socks?

12/08/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I'm not saying yet. Did everyone here have parents who did the whole Santa thing?

I've heard Australians don't. Is that true? Paging all Australian SHLOGGERS.

SG

12/08/2005  
Blogger Paula said...

Aussie shlogger reporting for duty!

We ALWAYS did the Father Christmas thing...even now when we're 24, 22 & 19, we still get our stocking with presents from Father Christmas, which we then take to our parents room, sit on their bed, and show them "what santa brought".

When we were younger, we even left water and carrots out for the reindeer, and sometimes some christmas pudding for santa to eat.

So yes, most Australians do the "Santa thing".

Mum and Dad never told us that santa wasn't real, we just realised it as we got older. I totally don't buy into the whole "lying to your children" and "causing psychological damage" thing. When I have kids, I'm doing the whole three: Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, and Father Christmas. It's all about being a kid hey?

I've also been to christmas parties where we're all dressed up as santas (old santa, super santa, punk santa etc), which is quite interesting when it's 40 degrees! (104 for the uneducated ha!)

12/08/2005  
Blogger Paula said...

PS - Some churches even include Father Christmas in their Christmas celebrations over here - we have Father Christmas for our children's parties, and Hillsong's christmas production last year included Santa & Mrs Claus, as well as numerous elves.

12/08/2005  
Anonymous kat said...

My parents did the whole Santa thing. It never bothered me until after college. It was then that I stopped putting up Santa decorations and decided that my kids certainly would not be told much about Santa. I decided that Santa was bad.

Recently, however, I've decided that I was stupid. :-) Maybe not stupid, but just a little off. I mean, Santa doesn't threaten the existence of Jesus, His deity or His coming return. Heck, Santa-isn't-real. So, he doesn't really threaten anything. I think that the increasing popularity of Santa (vs. Jesus) and "Happy Holidays" (vs. Merry Christmas) merely reflects a growing portion of the nation that doesn't know and love the God that I do.

I don't think that Santa or "Happy Holidays" are the issues that need to be addressed. I think that the issue that needs to be addressed is a Church that isn't meeting the down and dirty needs of everyday people. A church that is only skin deep and cares more about whether it's members shop at Target than whether or not the checker at Target has heard that she is desperately loved by the living God.

I guess that's sort of harsh. But true - I think. It's true of me. I find that the more I learn about God, the more I struggle with what to do with that knowledge. I think there are two choices: criticize or change. It's easier use and exhibit knowledge through criticism than through change, but it's 99% worthless. Giving or not giving gifts from Santa doesn't really matter much in light of eternity, but loving Jesus and those He loves does matter. There are greater ways to advance the kingdom of God than banning Santa.

Sorry for the novel...

12/08/2005  
Blogger bridgett said...

My parents didn't do the Santa thing. I don't know of anyone in our neck of the woods (eastern Kentucky) that did in the early 1970s. Maybe that's why I also don't do Santa so much now that I'm a parent. My kid initially was terrified of sitting on some fat old stranger's lap (smart child) and we wanted something less mall-ready. We do celebrate Nicholasmas (a tiny secret gift that magically appears in a child-size shoe the evening December 6th) as our family's kickoff to the season, which ends for us on Three Kings' Day (with grass for the camels on Jan 6th). That takes some heat off of Christmas as a present-giving avalanche and allows us to contemplate the real Gift the season offers.

12/08/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Bridget, are you in North America? I've never heard of anyone celebrating the way you do. Interesting. Is this original to your family? Did you start the tradition or is it more common than I know?

12/08/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

My parents did the Santa thing to a degree. My sister and brother are much older than me so they knew the truth about Santa way before me. I think because I was the "baby," they played it longer with me. I remember feeling devastated when my brother told me Santa wasn't real (I think I was 6), but my mom sat down with me and told me about St. Nicholas. She also said that Santa is really just another representation of love; the love we have for our families and friends and that because of that love, Santa is "real." That made sense to me. We've told our kids from the beginning that Santa isn't the guy in the store, nor does he come down the chimney (we didn't HAVE a chimney for many years). They get it too, but they still have a great deal of fun putting out cookies and milk for Santa, a carrot for the reindeer, and listening for the sleigh bells until they fall asleep. Great family traditions!

Beth

12/08/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what are you guys talking about like santas not real or something. jeeze your startin to scare me here.

you must be makin the wrong cookies.

seth

12/09/2005  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/09/2005  
Anonymous tunz4jesus said...

http://www.southflorida.com/events/sfl-scaredsanta,0,2245506.photogallery?coll=sfe-events-headlines&index=9

My favorite Santa pictures. I have a brother 10 years older, sister 8 years older, they told me Santa was killed in a terrible, bloody accident and that if he did come it would be a ghostly figure without a couple limbs. I never really liked Santa.

12/09/2005  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

My parents tried the Santa thing but I told them when I was three that I didn't believe some guy could go house to house, even to ones without chimneys, all in one night. Mom cried. I did agree to pose for photos on Santa's lap for a couple more years but I looked pretty incredulous in the pictures.

Happily, the Santa thing didn't scare me off from believing in the unseen Christ. I started believing in Him when I was four and it stuck. :)


nt

12/09/2005  
Blogger Rica said...

I never believed in Santa, but my mom did it for one year. She said it was because her mom told her to. Of course, even if I did believe in Santa, that one year would've broken that thinking. On the To-From tags, Mom had To Erica; From Mama then she scratched that out and put Santa underneath it. I thanked her for the presents anyway.

12/09/2005  
Blogger bridgett said...

Shaun,

Yep, North American (never traveled outside the friendly confines). My husband and I have lived in a number of multi-ethnic communities with many Catholic friends and relations, so our family culture skews international and interfaith. Nicholasmas is widely celebrated in Scandinavia and we went to grad school in Iowa where we fell in with a pack of wild Norwegians who introduced the custom to us. The smallness of the surprise helps children understand that it's giving and receiving - not the gift -- that delights. Kings' Day/Epiphany came from Latino friends. In Central America and the Carribean, the Feast of the Kings is a bigger deal for kids than Christmas -- they leave out grass for the camels in the same way US kids sometimes leave cookies for Santa, with the idea that the kings are the present-bringers. (Christmas is a church-centered day; the presents come on January 6.) That night, they parade from house to house (sometimes in costume) around their neighborhood looking for the Christchild and avoiding Herod's soldiers. They finally "discover" a Christmas party that features a special kind of bread (like a cinnamon roll, but less sticky) that has a little Christ figure baked inside. The person who gets the piece with the Christ figure throws the next party, which is on Candlemas (February 2). Our Kings' Day celebration involves kids wearing bathrobes and paper crowns, knocking on every door in the house announcing Christ's birth. The whole procession of the season -- from generous mystery to epiphany -- is captured for us in a way that the one-day present dump just didn't do it.

I know of other families who do this combo, but most of them were members of our original prayer community in Iowa.

12/09/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Alright, I knows the suspense has been killing you...

No Santa in my house. No presents.

Hmm, really? - You might wonder. Is this the same guy who DOES celebrate Halloween? Yep.

BUT, I do NOT think Santa is bad or that you and yours shouldn't do the whole Santa thing. I'll explain later.

SG

12/09/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

No Santa means we decorate with him but my kids know he's not real. He's like Strawberry Shortcake or Care Bears to them.

12/09/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Same at our house. The kids know he's not real but they do enjoy leaving out the cookies and milk; knowing that Dad and I will enjoy them when we're putting the presents under the tree that are from us.

Beth

12/09/2005  
Blogger Amy said...

No presents at all for Christmas at the Groves house?

I never believed in Santa, and I don't feel like I missed anything.

12/09/2005  
Blogger Paula said...

my parents always said that if we didn't believe, we would't get any presents from santa. so, even though I'm now 24, we all try and convince our parents that we still believe in santa. it's all good fun, and we just pretend that we're all 5 for the day.

one time my sister and I got up at 2am to see what santa bought us - colouring books and texta's, so we decided to colour in some pictures, until our parents woke up from our talking :)

One year we actually had santa come to a family christmas party. That was a surprise, as it was a hard year - the family that we were having the party with, their father had died earlier in the year (he was 27).

I think I'm the only one out of my friends who still gets presents from santa :)

12/10/2005  
Blogger Michael Nease said...

And as interesting as it is, our moder day "Santa" was origionally drawn up by an artist named Haddon Sundblom for Coca-Cola in the 1930's. The Coca-Cola Santa that you see appear every Christmas season is the original model that all modern Santa's take after.

Find more about the origin of Santa Claus and lots of history about St. Nicholas at stnicholascenter.org.

12/11/2005  
Blogger Paula said...

I know this is an old post now, but I found these links that you may be interested in:

http://www.airservicesaustralia.com/santa05/
site that tracks santa's travels through airspace leading up to Christmas

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=78132
news article stating that santa's been given air space approval over australia...

also, I've grown up calling santa "Father Christmas" - possibly it's a South Australian thing, as my friends here in Sydney think it's cute.

12/20/2005  

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