Santa Clause, a Spurious Idol

Hold on to your reindeer! I’m sure the title of this post is bound to draw a variety of responses, some less than favourable.

First, I want to assure you that I’m by no means a “Christmas Grinch“. I’m simply curious how Jesus Christ, the all living Son of the One True God, has been slighted out of His own birthday celebration through the promotion of a fat bearded fiction from the North Pole.

“Santa Claus (St. Nick), as drawn by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly in 1881.

You might also be asking, “what right do you have to call one of the most celebrated modern Christmas icons and a Saint no less, a spurious [phony or bogus] idol?”

Well, my answer’s pretty simple… “because it’s the sincere and obvious truth.”

The name “Santa Clause” is, in itself, an anglicised translation of the Dutch nickname of Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas), “Sinterklaas“.

St. Nicholas’ very existence is not verifiable by any certifiable historical document. All we have is an anecdotal tradition that’s been redesigned, replastered and renovated by a miscellany of cultures across the globe.

“There’s no single piece of evidence, but a lot of little things cobbled together,” English says. “You’re looking for needles in a haystack.”

Campbell University Professor Adam English, Who was St. Nicholas?

In the Netherlands Sint Nicolaas was contracted to Sinterklaas. According to Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas rides a horse and is accompanied by his helper Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete. Many consider Black Pete a racist stereotype derived from slavery, although others claim he is black because he goes down the chimney and gets a face full of soot.

Who was St. Nicholas? by Kevin DeYoung

You might call it harmless fun that encourages imagination and left asking, “Why are the beliefs in and promotion of Santa Clause a form of idolatry?” Well, because God’s told us so:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 6:16-19

You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry, you’d better not pout I’m telling you why. . . He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake …” Those lyrics are just creepy! I think that kids need to have privacy, space away from adults, freedom to fully express their feelings.

7 Reasons to Tell Your Kids the Truth about Santa, Cecilia Hilkey, Happy Family

When we tell children to write Santa Clause a letter of requests, put out some milk and cookies, and if they’ve been good little boys and girls, to eagerly await his gifts, we’re lying to them. In this respect, what might happen when we tell them about the life and miracles of Jesus Christ, and they find out that Santa Clause is a myth?

Unfortunately, children aren’t real quick to interpret fact from fiction. They have a trusting nature and believe what they’re told. Santa’s role as judge over good and bad deeds immediately puts him in place of God. Moreover, such a works-based mentality and desire towards presents based on one’s behaviour undermines the grace of Christ.

Do we seriously believe all the “cobbled together” and satirical folktales of a “St. Nicholas” who probably existed, even though he was removed from the Roman Calendar by Pope VI because his universal legitimacy couldn’t be authenticated?

Did St. Nicholas’ bones really turn into a “sweet-smelling water called manna” (manna is the name we see given to the unknown food dispensed by God to the Israelites in the desert), which has healing properties and can be purchased from the Basilica of Saint Nicholas of Bari gift shop? Just to note, upon radiocarbon dating, the Venetian “Manna di San Nicola” was no more than vegetable oil:

…the sample is a vegetal oil, with a fatty acids composition modified by natural oxidation processes, containing pollen grains of plants from Northern Italy, and dating around 1300 A.D. These results, together with a historical and artistic evaluation of the ceramic jar containing the oil, allow us to hypothesise that the jar was introduced into the case after the arrival of the relics in Venice (1100 A.D.)

Tapparo A, Di Marco VB, Bombi GG, Paganelli A. Chemical characterisation, plant remain analysis and radiocarbon dating of the Venetian “Manna di San Nicola”. Ann Chim. 2002 Mar;92(3):327-32. PMID: 12025516.
The Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

The true story of Jesus’ birth we have in the four gospels is the perfect and only gift we’ll ever need. The accurate and verified Biblical accounts (see the First Council of Nicaea) of Jesus turning water into wine, walking on water, healing the crippled, bringing sight to the blind and voice to the mute, resurrecting the dead, dying for our sins, and rising from the dead, are far more powerful, inspiring, and life-changing than a fanciful story of a generous and jolly saint with a bunch of elves in a sky-chariot.

Why are we so eager to both follow and encourage a marketing lie, particularly to those under our closest care?

First, we mustn’t forget that Satan, the master of lies, has no issue with the modern Santa Clause (“Santa” being an anagram for “Satan” could just be a coincidence). If anything, he’s thrilled to bits. The glorification and veneration of St. Nicholas and the introduction of Santa Clause into our societies have turned Christmas (the Mass of Christ) into a shopping holiday.

Secondly, Christmas is a time to gather together in celebration and adoration for the gift of grace in the life of Jesus. It’s a time of thanksgiving and recognition that God, YHWH, loves us so much He came down from Heaven to Earth to save us.

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