Is Santa a Christian? Yes! Santa has been around a long time. Yes! He is a Christian. Saint Nicholas of Myra, born near Anatolia, Turkey, was a fourth-century bishop (minister, for you Protestants) who was famous for giving gifts to the poor. Nicholas was born to Christian parents who left him an inheritance when they died. He distributed all of his money to the poor. He loved Jesus from an early age and devoted his entire life to compassionate, generous giving.
Saint Nicholas had a reputation for giving gifts anonymously, and he would throw bags of money into people's homes (and sometimes down their chimneys) under the cover of night to avoid being spotted.
St. Nicholas, according to tradition, gave his first gift to a family who had three daughters. They were to be sold into slavery (actually prostitution, but don’t tell your kids!) Nicholas, broken-hearted to see the plight of these innocent girls, paid the family’s debts and provided money for them to have a better life. The Catholics called Nicholas the protector of seamen, merchants, archers, children, pharmacists, lawyers, pawnbrokers and prisoners. St. Nick loved them all!
Nicholas passed away on December 6 sometime around the 340s or 350s A.D., and the day of his death became an annual feast in which children would put out food for Nicholas and straw for his donkey. Catholics often taught that the saint would come down from heaven during the night and replace the offerings with toys and treats—but only for the good boys and girls.
Santa had many names all over the world. Martin Luther, a famous German pastor, introduced Christkindl. Christkindl means Christ child, and originally referred to Baby Jesus. Christkind or Kris Kringle delivered presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. The “Christ child,” Christkind, was an angel-like figure accompanying St. Nicholas on his holiday missions. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten delivers gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. English legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children’s stockings with holiday treats. Pere Noel is responsible for filling the shoes of French children.
Most boys and girls around the world have names for Santa. What do we learn from his story?
He loved children. Every “Santa” story describes a man who gave generously to little ones. My favorite Bible passage is Luke 18:15-17:
“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’” NIV
Christmas is about giving, not getting! Jesus taught in Luke 6:38:
“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” MSG
We don’t have to be on the naughty list! Paul writes in Romans 3:21-24:
“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry list as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” MSG
The greatest gift we can ever receive is Jesus. John 3:16 is the most beloved verse in the Bible. Our children need to know that Christmas is about Christ.
“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” NET
You can tell your children about Santa, but get your story straight. St. Nicholas loved Jesus. Teach your child to love Jesus, too.