St. Nicholas: Fact or Fiction?

Modern Christians often feel conflicted about Santa Claus. In the midst of family life, we want to embrace the fun and the festiveness. Surprises are enjoyable. Christmas stockings add to our holiday decor. But how do we integrate this jolly old elf with the deep truths we want to pass on to our children about Emmanuel, God with Us?

In my family, growing up, we had a mantra, and Hal and I have passed it on to our children as well.

“Jesus is real. Santa is pretend. And it’s fun to pretend!” My parents chose to never keep the “secret” of Santa Claus from us. However, they chose to embrace all the fun of Christmas morning: stockings, gifts from Santa, fostering the anticipation of gift-giving and receiving. This certainly seems to be a reasonable compromise, a way to embrace the goodness of Santa Claus, while focusing on the Truth of Christmas.

In our years at our church, All Souls, we have expanded upon this tradition. While Santa Claus, the jolly elf dressed for Coca-Cola marketing and cruising the earth with his sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, is pretend, St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, is not. Nicholas was born to a wealthy Greek family in what is now southern Turkey in the 3rd century AD. His parents raised him to be a devout Christian and he dedicated his life to God’s service. There are many stories of Nicholas’ life as a priest, and eventually as Bishop of Myra. Each story tells the tale of a man devoted to serving the poor and to giving of his wealth to those in need.

Over the centuries, Nicholas’ tradition of gift-giving has been passed down and become associated with the Christmas season. We remember the life of St. Nicholas on his feast day, December 6, which is the anniversary of his death. As Christians, we can embrace the traditions of St. Nicholas and enjoy his memory as an example of Christian life and service. You might enjoy some resources at the St. Nicholas Center as you learn more about St. Nicholas’ life.

Our church, All Souls, remembers St. Nicholas’ life with a celebration. Our evening event is appropriate for all ages and we hope that adults and children alike will join us. We will offer a short dramatic presentation, refreshments, activities and crafts, a cookie exchange, and the St. Nicholas Shoppe.

If you would like to participate in the cookie exchange, please bring as many cookies as you would like to exchange. The more, the merrier!

The St. Nicholas Shoppe is an opportunity for the church family to contribute small items they no longer need, and for the children to purchase items to give to family and friends for Christmas. If you would like to contribute items, please bring them to the church by December 5. Children may choose to come to our celebration ready to shop! Each item at the Shoppe is $1 and proceeds will go to the Outreach Community Center in Carol Stream, IL.

Join us! Wednesday, December 8 at 7:00 PM. Questions? Contact Jennifer Merck or see

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