Ah, Santa Claus. The most iconic figure in all of pop culture, not just in America, but perhaps the world. If you somehow don’t know who he is, he’s that obese man in a red suit with white fur trim and black buckled boots who travels the world in a reindeer-driven sleigh and delivers toys and other gifts to good children when they sleep on Christmas Eve. Yeah, you get the picture.
But what if I told you that he doesn’t exist…except that he does?
The Santa Claus we know of today is based primarily on the historical Saint Nicholas of Myra, a 4th century Greek Christian bishop who lived in the Byzantine province of Lycia. Now, this guy was famous for generous gifts to the poor, such as giving one pious Christian’s daughters with dowries so they wouldn’t have to become prostitutes. This selfless behavior morphed in to Medieval tradition, when gifts were given to children in his honor on the night before December 6, which was later changed to December 24 and 25 in opposition to the veneration of saints.
Saint Nicholas, however, remained a popular figure for giving gifts, and thus became–you guessed it–Santa Claus.
Today, I’d like to think of the guy as a metaphor for the true Christmas spirit: not a time of getting presents from people, but of giving something of yourself to others, just as Saint Nick did. It’s why people are more happy about people giving the gifts than the gifts themselves; it’s a touch of personal sacrifice, of selfless care for another’s well-being, of…love, for lack of a better word.
What do you say?