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  • Garrett Pomichter-Murray

Yes Internet, There Is A Santa Clause

By: G.W. Pomichter

Do you believe in Santa Claus? To answer this question, there are some key points in history we must examine, and determine, who or perhaps what Santa might be, especially today.

Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Empire, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular presenting the three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In continental Europe, he is usually portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes.

Father Christmas dates back as far as 16th century in England during the reign of Henry VIII, when he was pictured as a large man in green or scarlet robes lined with fur. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, bringing peace, joy, good food and wine and revelry. As England no longer kept the feast day of Saint Nicholas on 6 December, the Father Christmas celebration was moved to 25 December to coincide with Christmas Day.

Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from Church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas (known in Dutch as Sinterklaas), merged with the English character Father Christmas to create the character known to Americans and the rest of the English-speaking world as "Santa Claus.”

In the English and later British colonies of North America, and later in the United States, British and Dutch versions of the gift-giver merged further.

L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a 1902 children's book, further popularized Santa Claus. Much of Santa Claus's mythos was not set in stone at the time, leaving Baum to give his "Neclaus" a wide variety of immortal support, a home in the Laughing Valley of Hohaho, and ten reindeer—who could not fly, but leapt in enormous, flight-like bounds.

Images of Santa Claus were further popularized through Haddon Sundblom's depiction of him for The Coca-Cola Company's Christmas advertising in the 1930s. The popularity of the image spawned urban legends that Santa Claus was invented by The Coca-Cola Company or that Santa wears red and white because they are the colors used to promote the Coca-Cola brand. This is an over simplification, as much of the correlation was already inherent in the character.

Now that we’ve examined the history of the jolly gift giving apparition of Christmas past, it might be easy to relegate the character to a quaint history of the holiday season. But there is more to consider.

Christmas itself has come in many incarnations. Beginning with the Roman Festival of Saturnalia.

One theory to explain the choice of December 25 for the celebration of the birth of Jesus is that the purpose was to Christianize the pagan festival in Rome of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, meaning "the birthday of the Unconquered Sun", a festival inaugurated by the Roman emperor Aurelian, to celebrate the sun god and celebrated at the winter solstice, December 25. According to this theory, during the reign of the emperor Constantine, Christian writers assimilated this feast as the birthday of Jesus, associating him with the "sun of righteousness"

Prior to Christianization, the Germanic peoples (including the English) celebrated a midwinter event called Yule. With the Christianization of Germanic Europe, numerous traditions were absorbed from Yuletide celebrations into modern Christmas. During this period, supernatural and ghostly occurrences were said to increase in frequency, such as the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. The leader of the wild hunt is frequently attested as the god Odin and he bears the Old Norse names Jólnir, meaning "yule figure" and the name Langbarðr, meaning "long-beard," another incarnation of Santa Claus, perhaps.

With the advent of Christianity dominance of European life, the festivals were assimilated into the celebration the birth of Jesus Christ.

But of all the miracles that Jesus is said to have performed, the greatest of which may be his resurrection from the grave, why is his mere birth celebrated as one of the most significant holidays on the modern calendar? And, what does that have to do with Santa Claus?

The answer to the first question is found perhaps most innocently in the famed Christmas song/carol, “Mary Did You Know?”

The song poses the question to a young virgin bride, as to how much she knew about the import of her new born son, and reminds us all of the unknown potential of a new born child. In fact, in apocalyptic end of times stories, often the last sign of the end of times is the birth of a soulless child, more specifically a generation of still born children, denoting the end of human potential.

So, if Christmas speaks to western culture by celebrating the unknown hope of a new generation by celebrating the birth of the messianic Jesus Christ, and hope is best represented in the face of the innocent children, it is perhaps fitting the beneficiaries of our best wishes and of our famed Santa Claus’s generosity is the children.

In fact, that brings us to the crux of this matter. Over centuries, the character of Santa Claus has become synonymous with generosity. He has brought the spirit of the holiday and delivered a multitude of gifts to those he visits. These gifts of course must, today at least, come from somewhere. Where?

Whether from a parent or charitable organization, or from a relative or friend, the spirit of giving and the truest generosity demand no exchange for them.

Typically, almost all acts of giving yield a kind of psychological exchange. One gives a gift or makes a donation, and one is given an outward symbol of gratitude. Recipients recite a familiar, “Thank You.” In some cases a reciprocation of gifts is expected. In either case, this makes the initial act of giving an exchange, and not the truest act of generosity.

Enter Santa Claus. Santa Claus is credited with the anonymous giving of thousands of gifts to hundreds of thousands of children around the world. He is the absent patron of gift giving, and allows people to give freely without the expectation of outward gratitude or any exchange, real or inferred, beside that feeling one gets when seeing another experience joy.

When a gift brings joy to a child, loved one, or even a stranger, and it is truly given in the anonymous name of Santa Claus, it reminds us of the hope for a happy and prosperous future for humanity and is a true celebration of all that is good in the coming generation, and is a fitting part of any Christmas celebration.

So, YES! I do believe in Santa Claus!

Do you believe that the joy of seeing someone revel in receiving that perfect gift is more important than the praise you might receive for having selected it? Do you find in the selection of such a gift a rewarding feeling that washes over you filling you with joy, not at your selection, but rather at the knowledge that you have paid attention and truly know those with whom you spend your time? Do you feel the overwhelming satisfaction of watching a child or loved one fill up with wonder and the whole light of happiness in accepting all the love that accompanies such a gift? Is, in fact, your joy found in the giving of such love?

Do you believe in the anonymity that allows these tokens to be truly reveled in, without the expectation that conditioned responses of gratitude must accompany every gesture of good will? Can you find the truest gratitude in the flickers of happiness behind a loved one's smile?

If you were to close your eyes and conjure an image to personify these beliefs, what might you see?

After a day toiling to reap the harvest, can you step aside and give unto the rain and the sky and God's good earth the credit for the bounty?

Yes! I believe in Santa Clause!

If you answered yes to these questions, at any age, from any station, then you too believe in Santa Clause! So when you are asked, answer proudly:

I believe!

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