There are two main camps when it comes to children and Santa Claus. As parents of two little girls approaching the age of understanding morality, my wife and I have some decisions to make with regard to which approach we’re to take regarding the Jolly Fat Man.
One popular approach is to tell children that Santa Claus is real. That there really is a generous, overweight gentleman who commits light B&E (Breaking and Entering) in order to give gifts to children. That he does this for children all over the globe in one night and that he is even more attentive than the NSA at knowing whether kids are naughty or nice.
It’s a fun approach to take. Kids get to believe in the magic of the holidays and they have a solid motivation, at least for a little while, to behave as though someone will reward them for good behavior. Hollywood has certainly made a lot of money by encouraging parents toward this magical line of thought.
The other popular approach is to rob your children of magic. Tell them that there is no Santa Claus. Let them be the ones to break it to their friends that Santa is a fraud and that their parents are manipulative liars.
On the plus side, you will be raising a child who may embrace a world rooted in cold fact. Maybe they’ll become scientists and cure cancer and make a lot of money to support you in your old age. On the negative side, this isn’t any fun and your kids will make their friends cry.
So what is a parent to do?
Here’s my thought. My wife and I are going to try for some middle ground. We’re going to tell our kids about the historically venerated Saint Nicholas. After all, he was a pretty cool guy.
Here are a few fun facts about Saint Nicholas:
- Because of the miracles that were attributed to him, he’s also known as “Nikolaos the Wonderworker”
- He was a secret gift giver who put coins into shoes that had been left out for him.
- According to legend, he thwarted the plot of a murderous butcher by bringing three people back to life after the butcher had planned to sell their bodies as meat.
- Legend also tells of three poor girls who would have ended up in prostitution, but for the fact that Nicholas dropped dowry money down the girls chimney where it landed into some socks that were drying on the mantle.
- And Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, pawnbrokers and students.
True, we probably won’t tell our girls about the murders or the possibility of prostitution right away. But by focusing on a person who actually lived and breathed, the person who inspired the many traditions that Hollywood hocks, perhaps my wife and I can encourage the truth while retaining some of the magic. And if we really wanted to get crazy, we could even visit some relics of Nicholas at Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church on East Paris Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan (just down the road from Baker Book House).
So, let’s hear it for the real Saint Nick!