Sunday, December 12, 2010


No snow for us--just cold!
Here in North Central Texas, we’re prepared for what the weather forecaster says is an “arctic blast.” Brrr! Folks around here call it, “Nothing between us and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.” Strong north winds chill as if coming off the frozen North Pole. How do people in Siberia stand living there? Ah, well, that’s a problem for another day. Today's weather makes Christmas seem nearer. Heavens, it’s careening toward us like the fictional train, the Polar Express. How will I get everything done in time? I’ll either be late with some things for this year—or maybe I’ll be very early for next year. LOL

Because I love this time of year, I thought I’d give you a review of THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SANTA CLAUS, by (as told to) Jeff Guinn. This is not a new book, but came out in 2003. In fact, Jeff Guinn now has three follow-up books available. I read the first of the series several years ago. Don’t worry, this review does not contain spoilers.

I was relieved to learn the Santa Claus/Saint Nicholas tradition was not merely a marketing ploy concocted by Madison Avenue, or whatever its predecessor was. There really was a Saint Nicholas in the fourth century, and he really did go about giving gifts! He was a Bishop of the church in Myra and traveled around his area of Lycia in Asia Minor. His feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is December 6th, and he is also acknowledged by other churches. Okay, he didn’t crawl down chimneys. Back then, homes didn’t have actual chimneys as we know them. Many just had a hole in the roof. They also didn't have glass on the windows. Not too cozy in bad weather.

Saint Nicholas’ first known gifts were to the daughters of a very poor man. The girls couldn’t marry without a dowry, but their father had none to offer. Taking pity on the girls, Saint Nicholas either (1) tossed bags of gold through the window or (2) each sister had only one pair of stockings, so she washed them each night and hung them near the fire. Saint Nicholas put the coins in the stockings the girls left drying by the fire. Thus, the girls were able to marry (and, hopefully, each got a second pair of stockings).

I prefer the second version because it explains why we hang stockings by the fire for Santa to fill. When I was a child, my brother and I used our dad's heavy winter socks to hang. Since we didn't have a fireplace, we hung them on a nail in the window frame. Not idyllic, but it worked. It never occurred to us that on very cold days our dad had to wear socks with a hole in them. Oops, I digressed again.

Modern Santa Claus
The point of Jeff Guinn's book is that Saint Nicholas was an actual person, a Bishop of the church, who went around giving to the poor and helping all those he could. In other words, he did not only what is expected of any priest, but what we’re all supposed to do every day. As was the custom of the time and place, he was married. There was a Mrs. Claus.

Remarkable that Saint Nicholas showed such compassion in a time when the poor were looked down upon or ignored. Remarkable that doing good created so much notoriety and controversy and gave him a permanent place in history. Remarkable that we continue his legacy by giving to those we love and, hopefully, to those in need. Whether you call him Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, thanks for continuing his legacy.

I do believe in Santa Claus. I do!

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