Simple answer: As far as I’m (and history is) concerned, Santa Claus was/is a real person! Therefore, I will teach my children about Santa Claus.
You may be asking yourself why this is even a question. Or you may be asking yourself why would bother to teach my children about Santa. There are some people in secular society who decide to not teach about Santa (that’s okay). And there are others who wouldn’t even question this and automatically pass Santa down onto their children (and that’s okay too).
As far as living liturgically, I think Saint Nicholas and (his feast day) is super simple to introduce to children and maintain throughout the year. Hence this post!
A brief history lesson:
Santa Claus was born in the third century around modern-day Turkey. He was the bishop of Myra (again, modern-day Turkey). There are many legends from the life of Saint Nicholas, we can’t know for sure what exactly is true or exaggerated. However there is something to be said about a man whose life has many stories passed down through generations. These stories and legends help us understand that St. Nicholas did actually exist in history, was a devoted Christian and bishop, was a generous and humble man, and is a real Saint.
“Nicholas was a confessor – one who confessed Christ publicly in times of persecution, remaining faithful despite imprisonment, torture or exile” (Source). The Catholic Church has recognized St. Nicholas of Myra (Santa Claus) as a canonized saint. Therefore he continues to be real and exist because we (Catholics) believe he has an everlasting soul and presence in heaven that endures life.
Believing in Santa
The name Santa Claus was derived from Sinterklaas, the Dutch nickname for St. Nicholas. They are both the same person. Therefore, I will be teaching my children about St. Nicholas/Santa Claus/Sinterklaas – however you want choose to say his name.
Many pieces of the “story” have been added throughout the centuries. The commercialization of the holiday seems to neglect the historical part of Santa Claus’s history, good deeds, and devotion to Christ; our society can tend to only focus on the “big guy in the red suit” at the mall – the guy who makes a list, checks it twice…you know the rest. However, Santa Claus is so much more than the red suit guy who flies a reindeer-powered sleigh and drops down chimneys on Christmas Eve to deliver presents (I mean, saints do all sorts of miraculous things all the time with the help of God…so that may not be entirely too much of a stretch).
It is the spirit and history of Santa that is alive and will be passed down to my children, because Saint Nicholas is/was real. My oldest seems to be a little hesitant about dressed-up characters so if we do go visit the “big guy in the red suit” we will simply try our best to explain early on that the physical person we are seeing is just one of Santa Claus’s helpers!
As a Catholic parent trying to live faithfully and liturgically, I would like the focus to be on the entire celebration or experience of Advent (and then Christmas) rather than on Santa himself. Santa shouldn’t overshadow the true importance of this season of preparing for the arrival of our Savior (Advent) and then the actual nativity story and birth of Jesus (Christmas).
Basically, I have nothing against Santa but he can’t be the star of the show (we all know who the true stars of the show are here).
The Feast of Saint Nicholas
Since our oldest is three years old now, he is beginning to understand that certain days and holidays can be linked to various people, characters, and ideas. This is the first year we will introduce feast days to him (and thus our youngest too). The feast of Saint Nicholas is the perfect time to do that and hopefully it can begin the dialogue for his young heart and mind to start to understand Santa Claus while also beginning to understand the true reason for this time of year.
One of our Advent calendars is in the shape of Santa Claus. It was actually part of my family’s Christmas celebrations for as long as I can remember! When we started our family, my mother passed it on to us to use it with our own children. This Santa Advent calendar is so very dear to me. I don’t remember a Christmas season in my life where this Santa calendar wasn’t out for us to see and move as the days progressed. It brings back fond memories every time I see it in my house during this time. We already got that calendar out and have let the boys move the miniature Santa as the days pass. When we mark the days I just try to say something like, “another day has passed, let’s move Saint Nicholas!”
Since this is the first year we will try to celebrate Saint Nicholas on his feast day, I will be introducing new things (to the kids and to myself)! December 6th is the feast day of Saint Nicholas – just a few days away! Here’s what I plan on doing with my children:
- Make Santa Claus cookies – I will either do simple sugar cookies to decorate with red and white icing or the Pillsbury ones with the Santa hat already designed into them. It doesn’t have to be fancy at all, I just want something simple and fun to introduce Saint Nicholas to the children. If it helps my children understand Saint Nicholas then we will do it again next year, if not we will look for something else to do.
- One small treat or gift – the boys will get one wrapped treat of gift that Saint Nicholas leaves for them. This small gift wont be anything extravagant but just enough to explain to our children that Saint Nicholas brought them a special treat for his feast day.
Honestly I don’t plan on doing much more than that this year. Writing letters to Santa and a visit to your local Santa Claus are great ideas to celebrate his feast day if your children are at a suitable age for that! Since our oldest is only three, we don’t plan on doing letters to Santa quite yet. And as far as a visit to Santa, we have decided to follow our children’s lead. When we talk about visiting Santa Claus, our oldest is sometimes excited and other times terrified so we don’t quite know if he’s ready for that. As of right now, we don’t have any concrete plans to visit Santa Claus on the feast day of Saint Nicholas.
Liturgical living doesn’t have to be complicated – and it doesn’t have to consist of a million things to do. I encourage you to get creative and plan one or two things to do with your family, don’t put too much pressure on yourself (guilty) and begin small! What you’re doing now is already enough and is already making a difference in the lives of your children.
Are there any traditions you and your family have for Santa or even the feast of Saint Nicholas? Let me know, I’d love to hear all about them!