About Me

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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

St Nicholas or Santa?

Today being First Advent, I thought I'd share the following letter from City In Focus that I received via my pastor the other day. It's something to consider at this time of year.

"The person we refer to as Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra in the fourth century in modern day Turkey. Nicholas inherited great wealth as a young man when his parents died in an epidemic. He practiced charity his whole life and showed compassion to the poor or unjustly treated by society.

One example of St. Nicholas’ compassion involved a father who had lost all his money. This father had three daughters and now could not afford their dowries. The father’s decision to sell his daughters into slavery or prostitution came to the attention of Nicholas. On three separate nights, Nicholas anonymously threw a bag through the family’s open window containing enough gold for a dowry for one daughter. Thereby, all were saved from disgrace.

What we refer to as Santa Claus is an artist’s depiction of the "fat jolly old elf" from Clement Moore’s 1823 poem "The Night before Christmas". This Santa became the central figure in Coca-Cola advertising for over 30 years in the early 1900’s, thus cementing this figure as a world icon of commercialism.

What a contrast! St. Nicholas saw his resources as a gift from God to be shared with the poor and marginalized; Santa Claus encourages us to generate more gifts for ourselves or our loved ones.

As J. Rosenthal & C. Myers said years ago in their piece called "Santa Claus and St. Nicholas,"

Santa Claus belongs to childhood; St. Nicholas models for all of life.
Santa Claus encourages consumption; St. Nicholas encourages compassion.
Santa Claus flies through the air—from the North Pole; St. Nicholas walked the earth—caring for those in need.
Santa Claus, for some, replaces the Babe of Bethlehem; St. Nicholas, for all, points to the Babe of Bethlehem. (http://www.stnicholascenter.org/)

In scripture, Jesus gives us the two great commandments. The first is to love God and the second is, "You must love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22:35-40). St. Nicholas is a perfect example of "loving your neighbour," with a preference for those in need.

Who will be our model for this Christmas season: St. Nicholas or Santa? Do we choose to share our abundance or continue to fill our lives and our families’ lives with material possessions?
I suggest we toss some bags of gold through the open windows of our neighbours.

Merry Christmas,"

Personally, I love the Santa story but never forget the true meaning of Christmas. After all, the word Christmas comes from the old English "Cristes maesse" meaning Christ's Mass. But the truth seems to have become fuzzy for most. Your thoughts?


Janice Thomson said...

Christmas has definitely become so commercialized it is now a rather stressful event in the lives of many.
More heart-attacks happen then than any other time of year. The meaning has indeed been lost to many.
There are some however who do celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in every way keeping alive religious traditions passed down through the years and raising their families the same way.

leslie said...

I always think of our gift giving as symbols of the magi bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. And Santa is a fun addition to the holiday season. And this really is a stressful time of year for many people and if you watch the obits in the newspaper, you'll see an increase in deaths at this time of year. Thx for your thoughts, Janice.

jmb said...

It got all out of whack somehow, didn't it?
Nice post Leslie. Puts it all in perspective.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

An excellent letter. I didn't know the atory of the young girls saved from disgrace. It's true that "Santa" and the commercialisation of Xmas makes us want to buy more and more gifts. People don't overdo it here, though - they prefer to feast!

ivan said...

A Coke-sniffing Santa?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Malaysia is a multiracial and multireligious country (though Islam is the Official religion). Yet, Christmas is probably the biggest commercial event of the year in Malaysia even though Christians are probably less than 10% of the population. We don't really celebrate Christ's birth but X-mas where even Christ's name is replaced by an X. I try to tell the story of Christmas whenever I can. Thanks for reminding us that it is St. Nicholas that we should emulate and not Santa Claus.

leslie said...

Hi LGS, Canada is also a multiracial, multireligious country due to Trudeau's multi-culturalism push. However, it is still considered a basically Christian country but not as many people practise it (Christianity). It's no surprise then that the commercialization of the season is the big thing here.

What really bothers me, though, is that in the public school system all different kinds of religions are allowed to be celebrated but when it comes to Christmas and Christianity, it's all hush hush and you can't do pageants showing the true meaning of Christmas.

Ruth D~ said...

I wish somehow all the commercial aspects of the holiday would vanish.

leslie said...

Me, too, Ruth. But I'm looking forward to 2 concerts - one with a 50-voice choir & band and the other a more classical type with a violinist from the VSO headlining.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Gina at "I, G-Clair" has a wonderful post on the meaning of Christmas. I think you would enjoy it.

Smalltown RN said...

A great post Leslie and thought provoking....I echo the other comments regarding the commercializum of Christmas. It truly is a shame. And the whole politically correctness thing is getting out of hand. Our santas at the malls here were told they could not say Ho HO HO...you know why? Because of the slang meaning of Ho...my goodness it's all gone just to far....Merry Christmas to you my dear friend and I happily keep the Christ in Christmas and will try to do my bit to share this season with others....thank you for sharing the story of St. Nick....

Russell said...


Interesting and informative. I recall reading that A Visit from St. Nicholas was actually written by Sir Clement Moore as he was returning from town to his home one snowy evening.

He looked over the snow and then up at his driver, a little man with a big white beard, and came up with the idea.

He read the poem to his daughter and her friend that evening as he had promised to write her a poem for Christmas. Since he was a, I believe, a well renown scholar of theology he did not want any one to know he had written it.

I believe it was many, many years later before the it was learned he had written this poem!

Thanks for such good information. I enjoyed reading it!

leslie said...

Thanks Russell for the background on Moore's famous Christmas poem. I never knew that.

wanda said...

Good Morning..
Just wanted to stop by and tell you Thanks for always thinking of me, you are so sweet, I think of you often too. I have to make this short as I am getting ready to go to Idaho my father is quite Ill and still in the Hospital, they tell me he just might not make it.
I have posted on Sylvia's site if you want to know more, I really need to go now. just know that i am thinking of you too.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Oh, you've changed your avatar top right again. I love it!

Liz said...

As I said, I love Christmas, especially the run-up. It's a fact that the true meaning has been lost for some but it can occasionally peep through, even in the midst of commercialism.

Josie said...

Leslie, when I was in New York, I stumbled upon a little church near Wall Street, called Trinity Church, and I walked through the cemetary there, and just by chance I found Clement Clarke Moore's grave. That's the same church where the firefighters rested during 9/11. It's a gorgeous little spot. It was very close to where the buildings came down, but it remain standing, unscathed.

I love the Christmas traditions and I continue to practice them. I resent having them taken away from me and "sanitized" into the politically correct "holiday".

Bah humbug! :-)

leslie said...

When I ever get to New York city, I will definitely have to check that church out, Josie.

WL - I'm getting better at doing this sort of thing. I only wish I were that slim! ho ho ho

Liz - I'm SO looking forward to two different types of Christmas concerts - one with a 50-voice choir and band and then the other will have more traditional classical music featuring a violinist from the VSO.

Wanda - I will pray for you and your family that your Dad will receive a miracle in order to spend Christmas with you.

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