Perfect Theology: Is Jesus Really the Reason for the Season? Facts About the History of Christmas and Saint Nicholas

Image of nativity

It’s December 6, 2013. Several things are taking place here in Spain. First, a monumental occasion of Hanukkah falling during the Thanksgiving holiday is just behind us. This won’t occur again for another 70,000 years, meaning probably never.

The Christmas holiday season is here and in full swing. Christmas cards are being sent already. Trees are up. Lights are, too. And Santa is everywhere. In fact, have you ever wondered why it wasn’t called Santamas?

It should be, for more reasons than you probably know. If you would like to take a seat and strap yourself in for a reckless ride, read on. But if you are one that likes to be deceived, stop here!

While it may appear I like to write about things that draw a shock value and stir up drama, I don’t. Nor do I like to cause dissension. That said, I am not afraid of controversy. In fact, I like to get deep in it and separate fact from fiction by spending endless hours doing research. Then I like to pass out what I have learned, challenge you to do a little homework, and make a decision for yourself. Image famous birth of Christ Rembrandt

That is what I am about to do with Christmas. Do not get me wrong! I like have the warm, fuzzy feeling inside when I go to a Christmas carol service. When I watch the lights sparkle on my Christmas Tree. When I sit back and enjoy a night of wrapping gifts while listening to holiday music.

During no other time of year do I enjoy making my specialty Christmas cookies and fudge. I like to celebrate life. The birth of Christ, life going on through the “dead” of winter.  These things bring no harm and does me no evil. But do these traditions glorify God like I think they do? Can light and darkness mix?

Origins of Santa Claus

To understand what I am referring to, we must step back in time and grasp the history, the beginnings of Christmas. And we must also look at Santa Claus, Father Christmas, St. Nick. All one in the same.

That is what this day is in Spain, December 6th. It is the festival of Saint Nicholas. While I unpack this, please know there is going to be a lot to take in. Spain is not the only country celebrating today. Many nations are. Very Catholic nations. For St. Nick was made a saint by the Catholic Church for all of his good deeds.

Was St. Nick Real?

The History of Christmas site has some very good information on Nicholas. Nicholas was reputed as a rich man that went around giving gifts to poor children. Born in Patara, in Asia Minor, in 280AD, he became the Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. He was worshipped as a god in the Roman Empire under Diocletian, whom later imprisoned Nicholas for not wanting to be worshipped. He was released in 313AD when Constantine began his reign. St. Nicholas died on December 6, 343AD.

100 years later, churches were being named after him. By the 800s, he became and official saint. In the 1200s France began to celebrate December 6 after him. He became the third most revered Christian figure in the world in the 1400s, only behind Jesus and Mary. 100 years later, England halted their celebration to him and took on the celebration of Father Christmas instead, which was much the same.

Nicholas, a leading bishop of the day, was also one of the key attendants at the Council of Nicea in 325AD where the present biblical cannon was chosen. After his death, things begin to intertwine between St. Nick and Santa Claus.

Watch this space…

By Jori Sams

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