Application of the Critical Theory

This information was provided by and can be found at Northwestern Lutheran Magazine. We commend pastor John L. Eich for his efforts to shine some light upon the meaning of Christmas, which indirectly shows how Christmas has been commoditified in order to generate fourth quarter profits.

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"How does Santa Claus fit with Christmas?" By John L. Eich
December 1997 - Volume 84, no.12

Armed with the background of Santa Claus, we can use the true story of St. Nicholas to help support the Christian aspects of Christmas.

What is happening to December 25? Todayís Christmas is an event that has every parent holding an overspent credit card, every pastor dealing with a subject thatís lost its first surprise, every child clutching a sticky candy cane, every person seeing Christmas as a "holidaze" -- every Christian lamenting that the birth of Jesus is eclipsed by nutcrackers, Santa Claus, and a wish list.

Perhaps for Christian parents one of the most difficult issues with the way Christmas is celebrated is what to do with Santa Claus. Opinions range from allowing the children to believe in the jolly old elf who drops presents down chimneys to not even mentioning him.

While there is always a danger in teaching children to believe in a story that later they find out is untrue, no matter where they look, no matter what TV shows they watch, Santa Claus will be mentioned. There is no way to shield them completely. Perhaps, armed with the background of Santa Claus, we can use the true story of St. Nicholas and the myth to help support the Christian aspects of Christmas.


Nicholas was born in AD 270 in the seacoast town of Patara in Asia Minor, which is present day Turkey. His wealthy parents died in a plague while he was little. As he grew older, he traveled and enjoyed using his money to help people. When he was nearly 50 he decided to become a pastor. This is when his story really begins.

Today doctors wear green, nurses wear white, and football players wear pads, jerseys, and helmets. Ministers at the time of Nicholas wore a uniform too. They wore a long red coat to remind people that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin. The stole around the collar was a symbol of the yoke of Jesus, a simple reminder we are all his servants. The hat wasnít a stocking cap, but a miter symbolizing the helmet of salvation.

For 22 years Nicholas watched over his church. He loved having children sit on his lap while he told them stories about Jesus. One of his other joys was gift giving. Once a man in his church went bankrupt. In order to pay his bills the man was going to sell his three beautiful daughters into slavery, a common practice in those days. When Nicholas heard about it he collected an offering and in the dead of night tossed the bag of gold into an open window in the manís house. In other cases, if the windows or doors were locked, he would drop the gift down the chimney, which often had stockings hanging nearby to dry from washing.

Nicholas died in AD 342 on Dec. 6. By then he was well known in the area. Many Christians began to follow his example in Christ and give gifts to the poor. It became popular to hold a feast and worship service in his memory on Dec. 6. People would even dress up like him, hold children on their laps, and give them gifts.

Nicholas soon became a patron saint, like a sports hero. In Holland the Dutch pronounced his name as Saint Nicklaus. As they came to America and spoke quickly, to the untrained ear it sounded like they were saying "Santa Claus." The Germans, because of the Lutheran Reformation, focused their attention on the Christ child. In German the baby Jesus is called the "Krist Kindle." Again spoken quickly this would sound like "Kris Kringle," which later was applied to the Santa Claus legend because Christmas was celebrated near the time of St. Nicholasí day.

The Puritans, however, made it illegal to mention any saintís name. During the 1600s it was forbidden to light a candle, exchange a gift, or sing carols. Still, people will celebrate what they want. If we donít teach them how to sing and feast and pretend to the glory of God, then the world will teach them how to do it without glorifying God. Thatís what happened to St. Nicholas.

In 1820 a dentist named Clement Moore wrote a poem for his sick child to cheer him up. Called "Twas the night before Christmas," the poem told children that St. Nicholas lived at the North Pole, drove a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, and had a tummy that shook like a bowl full of jelly. (Actually he was probably thin from fasting.) Forty years later Thomas Nast drew a cartoon picture showing St. Nicholas with a long white beard (probably true), rosy cheeks (probably not), dressed in red (true), and with a sack of toys on his back (probably not, since the people needed money and food more).


Parents should be aware that fostering a belief in the Santa Claus of today may backfire later. A child looks to parents to furnish everything--food, comfort, courage, and truth. When a parent says, "Yes, there really is a Santa Claus, and his reindeer can really fly," he is no longer playing a game. That parent is lending his personal authority as a parent to the myth, giving it the ring of truth.

What happens later to a parentís credibility when the child finds out that the story isnít true? Maybe the other things a parent has said about safety, moral values, right or wrong arenít true either.

If you once believed in a man who knew what you were doing, who had amazing abilities, and who gave you nice things, and he turned out to be a fake, why should you believe in another man who knows what you are doing, has amazing abilities, gives you nice things--Jesus Christ? If you get burned once, why get burned the second time? Wouldnít it be better to be honest with our children right from the start, and teach them the difference between truth and make-believe?

Some people love Santa Claus so much that they forget about Jesus. Some churches burn the present day Santa Claus in effigy. Both extremes are too much. Itís better to remember the real Nicholas, who can serve as an example of how to really keep Christmas.

Donít think "Look what the world is coming to." Rather think "Look whoís coming into the world!"

A little girl was once asked, "What is a saint?" Thinking of the heroes of faith who are pictured in stained glass windows she answered, "A saint is someone who lets the light in." Thatís how we best perhaps can use the myths about Santa Claus. Letís use them to let the "light in," Jesus Christ the light of the world. Letís keep Santa Claus always kneeling at the manger of his Savior and ours.

This artical is located at Northwestern Lutheran Magazine.