St Nick’s makeover

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What do Christians think of Santa

Christians believe different things about Santa. Some say he’s just a bit of harmless fun… while others think he is decidedly dodgy and dangerous.

 Eastern Orthodox icon

What have Christian made of Santa? Here are some of the different ways Christians have responded to the hijacking of St Nicholas…

1. Santa = Satan!

Some Christians are very hostile to Santa Claus. If you ask them, “Does Santa exist?” they might well reply, “Yes, because he is Satan, and Satan is real!” The following parallels have been drawn between Santa and Satan…

Their names contain the same letters
They both live in extreme temperatures
They each prefer the color red
Both know whether you have been naughty or nice

More seriously, such Christians argue that Santa elbows Jesus out as the true focus of Christmas. They are concerned about the origins of Santa in pagan myth, and also say that if young children are brought up to believe in Santa, then when they finally learn that he isn’t real, they will also be tempted to think Jesus and God aren’t real, too.

2. Santa really lived!

If you ask a Christian from the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic traditions whether Santa is real or not, they will probably say, “Yes! His real name was St Nicholas… and we have the pictures to prove it!”

Orthodox and Catholic Christians are keen to point children back to St Nicholas, tell the stories of his life and say that he is an example we can follow today, and someone we can pray to for help. St Nicholas was known for his generosity, love and help for people in trouble, and for his strong faith in God… which are all qualities worth learning from.

December 6th is the feast day of St Nicholas and is celebrated in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions. Nicholas was slightly downgraded in the Roman Catholic calendar in 1968, when his feast day, along with many other saints, was made optional for Catholics.

3. Santa is make-believe!

For many Christians in the Protestant tradition, Santa is a make-believe figure, and is mostly regarded as a bit of harmless fun. In such churches on Christmas Day, you might find they indulge Santa, asking the children what presents they’ve received, and some churches might even have someone dressed up as Santa and taking part in the service.

The aim here is to use Santa creatively, drawing out the importance of giving to others, and also pointing to Jesus, who was “God’s Christmas present to the world”. Many of the carols at Christmas have a “giving” emphasis, shifting the spotlight onto Jesus and my response to him as the true focus of the season. For example…

Love came down at Christmas…
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given…
What shall I give him, poor as I am?

All Christians are keen to emphasise the giving of God through the birth of Jesus his Son, which gets beyond the superficiality of the commercial version of Santa and Xmas, and speaks to our deepest human needs.This is the good news of Christmas…

“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

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About this module

Santa Claus, who appears all over the place at towards the end of the year, raises so many questions. Who is he? Where on earth did he come from? Why the red suit?

In this special rejesus investigation, we look at the saint behind it all, St Nick.

Written by Simon Jenkins

Categories: Lives, Biographical, Poetry, Seasonal,


Module contents

arrow Introduction

arrow Turkish delight

arrow The Dutch connection

arrow Destination New York

arrow A visit from St Nicholas

arrow What do Christians think of Santa

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