~~~~~~~~~~~~Saint Nicholas is not the merry fellow with a chubby face and twinkling eye, but retains the gravity appropriate to a venerable bishop. He rides a horse or an ass instead of driving a team or reindeer. He leaves his gifts in stockings, shoes
or baskets. And for children who have been very naughty, and whose parents cannot give him a good account of them, he leaves a rod by way of admonition, for he is a highly moral saint, though kind and forgiving. If the parents are too poor to buy gifts, the
children say ruefully that the saint抯 horse has glass legs and has fallen down and broken his foot. The horse or ass of St. Nicholas is not forgotten; the children leave a wisp of hay for him, and in the morning it is gone.
As with us, the older people have their own festivities, suppers, exchange of gifts, surprises. But also as with our Christmas; the feast of Nicholas is primarily a day for Children.
Where did Santa Claus get his reindeer? And how did the grave saint become that gnome-like fat fellow, with nothing ecclesiastic about him, so vividly described in Clement Moore抯 famous poem, "Twas the night before Christmas?" The answers to these questions
are only provisional, matters of conjecture.
Notice that in Moore抯 poem, the form Santa Claus does not appear. The title of the poem is 慉 visit from St. Nicholas? and in the verses the visitor is St. Nicholas and 慡aint Nick? The verses were written in the first half of the last century. The author was
a distinguished biblical scholar and professor in the General Theological Seminary in New York. In these verses he was writing not as a scholar but as a jolly human being, the father of a family taking a day off from serious studies. His verses must represent
the idea of Santa Claus that prevailed in his time, and long before his time in New York and far outside New York for they spread all over the country, are still reprinted every year.
Now in this delightful jingling poem there is not a touch of religion. The 慾olly old elf?has not the slightest resemblance to a reverend saint. And there is no suggestion, except in the word Christmas, of any connection in thought or spirit with what is, excepting
possibly Easter, the most sacred day in the whole Christian year. And similarly we may observe in our time many a Christmas party run its course without any participants giving a thought to a birth in a manager from which our year is dated. So Santa Claus
is strangely different from his pious namesake and also in some places and among some people estranged from the very religious occasion to which he is attached.
But in some parts in America where the people are of Dutch or German descent there is a charming alliance between Santa Claus and the Christ Child. It came about in this way. Some parts of Germany after the feast of St. Nicholas had been moved forward and identified
with Christmas it was felt that the real patron of the day, the true giver of gifts, should be Christ himself. This feeling probably arose from the Protestant objection to the worship of saints. So St. Nicholas was deposed from power; gradually, not by any
sudden revolution, he disappeared in some places, from the customs long associated with him. But the customs remained. On Christmas Eve there were gifts of sweets and toys for good children. Or they put bowls in the window, and behold, in the morning they
found that the window pane has been taken out during the night and gifts laid in the bowls.
The bringer of these gifts was not St. Nicholas but the Christ Child, in popular German, Kris Kringle. But among the German people in America, the legend of Santa Claus still survived, and so Kris Kringle is a combination of Santa Claus and the Christ Child.
This combination gives us an inkling of what happened in the whole story of Christmas from earliest times, Santa Claus, the merry elf, is not Christian at all, but pagan, coming down from times earlier th