Are you a parent torn between the virtue and obligation of truth telling to your children on one hand and indulging them with Santa Claus on the other? Are you a cynical teen that just rolls his/her eyes toward the sky at just the mention of Santa Claus? Are you a child confused and wondering if Santa Claus really exists?
If you fall into any of the above categories, then this book is for you. You need not look any further than this book to be proven to that yes, there was and is a Santa Claus. Your days of confusion and disillusionment are finally over.
Complete with fascinating artwork, historical detail, collectibles and postcards, this book delves deep into the mystery and magic of St. Nicholas who was a young man with kindly attributes toward humanity, especially young children. He was bishop of Myra, in a region of Asia Minor in what is now Turkey.
He was a religious man as well as a giving man, such that the Catholic Church raised him to the altar and bestowed sainthood upon him. He received a good-sized inheritence, but shared with less fortunate folks. Eventually he became, at a very young age, a bishop of the Christian Church; the Roman and Byzantine Catholic, the Orthodox, as well as traditional Protestant churches have great honor and respect for this man. December 6 is the day designated for him by the Catholic and Orthodox churches as a feastday in his honor.
I am partly of Dutch origin, and I have always been fascinated with the stories of my mother who grew up with the Saint Nicholas tradition in Holland as a child. In Europe, unlike here in the States, the celebration of St. Nicholas typically was never mixed in with Christmas. In my mother's country, Dutch children typically receive their gifts from "Santa Claus" on Saint Nicholas Eve (December 5) and then the next day, children are off from school. Saint Nicholas, then, is seen in the streets (not in shopping malls) on a white horse accompanied by his sidekick, Black Peter, who is a young page of Moorish descent. (In Austria, St. Nicholas's assistant is a young devil by the name of Krampus). Dutch children, on Saint Nicholas Eve, traditionally would place wooden shoes in front of the fireplace, and place some hay and carrots in them for Saint Nicholas's horse. Any child who's been naughty or needed improvement in some area, simply got a note from Saint Nicholas to do better, whether in behavior, school work, study habits, obedience to parents, etc. Christmas, however, is celebrated as a separate holiday, and traditionally has been considered a very holy feast, unlike the commercialistic venture it has become to a large degree in America. In Holland, gift giving normally is never done on Christmas but on Saint Nicholas. In Catholic countries, as well as among Catholics and traditional Protestants in general, Christmas begins, not ends, on December 25th and ends January 6th (Epiphany) in accordance with traditional liturgical norms. Usually when Americans sing the "Twelve Days of Christmas," it's passed off as another carol without meditation on its true meaning. (The Eastern Orthodox, going by a different calendar, celebrate their Christmas on January 6th, the Day of the Three Wise Men).
In this country, as a result of early Dutch and English colonization, both the respective traditions of these people got mixed due to intermarriage. But when Clement C. Moore wrote "The Night Before Christmas" in 1822, St. Nicholas was completely phased out and the mythical rotund elf, who has his origin in England as "Father Christmas," completely took over. At that point, there was no book written on St. Nicholas here in America. As the story goes, Clement Moore's daughter was very ill and wanted very badly a book about St. Nicholas. Dr. Moore wrote the hailed poem and so she became better in health. Hence, the European custom of placing shoes in front of the fireplace on December 5 was replaced by hanging stockings on the chimney on Christmas Eve; a white horse was replaced by eight reindeers; hay for St. Nicholas's horse was replaced by cookies and milk for Santa; a Bishop became a rotund elf. The North Pole became the homebase.
In European countries, he traditionally is regarded as a holy man, whereas our American mythical red elf is more of a secular figure seen, for example, in pictures holding up a whiskey bottle and on TV commercials which announce Christmas sales.
Here in the United States we need to perhaps cast off the secular, over-rated rotund elf with his cute little elves into oblivion, and explain to our young children who "Santa Claus" really was. Saint Nicholas, after all, was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church; the Church, after all, does not canonize "myths." The North Pole gag and the idea about eight reindeer attached to a sleigh have got to go. Let's get serious with our children. They need a "closer look", as the title of the book implies, at who Santa Claus really was and I suppose into Christmas in general. This, I'm sure, would really make our children happy and make for far less confusion. It would be a great service to our children. By stating to our children that Santa Claus originates in the North Pole, and then immediately returns there after Christmas and has a round of golf with the Easter bunny at some point later, we are doing a tremendous disservice to our children. It's sad to see many American children at first believe, and then become disillusioned later on, often with questioning other things. "If Santa Claus doesn't exist, does God?" they might ask. If you're a child wondering if Santa Claus really exists, let me tell you, I'm an adult and I say, YES, he does exist-in Heaven, as a saint. If we Americans absolutely must "hold on" to the Americanized Santa, fine, only let's keep him where he belongs: in the secular media, like on Coca Cola ads and in goofy secularized Christmas movies that use the North Pole as a point of exit. A family home, on the other hand, should accomodate Saint Nicholas.
This book is excellent for parents, homeschoolers, religious education teachers, and library workers.