Why is Santa Second?
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day.
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.
1821 brought some new elements with publication of the first lithographed book in America, the Children’s Friend. This “Sante Claus” arrived from the North in a sleigh with a flying reindeer. The jolly elf image received another big boost in 1823, from a poem destined to become immensely popular, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” now better known as “The Night Before Christmas.”
The poem generally has been attributed to Clement Clark Moore however, a case has been made that Henry Livingston actually penned it in 1807 or 1808.No matter who wrote it, the poem has had enormous influence on the Americanization of St. Nicholas
It’s been a long journey from the Fourth Century Bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas, who showed his devotion to God in extraordinary kindness and generosity to those in need, to America’s jolly Santa Claus, whose largesse often supplies luxuries to the affluent. However, he is still Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, whose caring surprises continue to model true giving and faithfulness.
For indeed, St. Nicholas, lover of the poor and patron saint of children, is a model of how Christians are meant to live. A bishop, Nicholas put Jesus Christ at the center of his life, his ministry, his entire existence.
(Excerpted from www.stnicholascenter.org)
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