Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Santa Claus

As a child, my mother taught me that if I was good, Santa Claus would visit our house on Christmas Eve night and fill my stocking with lots of goodies and leave presents under the tree. I would write a letter addressed  to Santa Claus, North Pole, and leave it in the mailbox. And on each Christmas Eve night, as I lay in bed half asleep, I could hear the sound of bells going down the hallway toward the place where our Christmas tree stood. 

I believed it was Santa . . . but if I had really analyzed the sounds, I would have realized that if Santa came down the chimney, he would've landed in the basement and walked up the stairs into the living room, rather than come through the trap door from the attic which was just outside my bedroom door. 

But as I grew older, my list grew longer, and I soon discovered quite by accident that if I didn't send Santa a letter, I received more than I would have asked for. That continued for several years, until one year I received a rude awakening. 

Years before, Gram Gram Silverman had comissioned a stocking to be knitted with a Jolly Old St. Nick, coming down the chimney. He had a white angora beard, and there were bells sewn around the top where my name had been knitted into the pattern, and a bell sewn to the stocking's toe. That year I awoke on Christmas Day morning, eager to look inside my stocking and open my gifts . . . but what I found had puzzled me

Inside the stocking was a chocolate Santa, an orange and some nuts. That was all. Then I looked at the gifts under the tree. The boxes with tags that had From: Santa printed on them were wrapped in identical paper as those with From: Dad & Mom written in cursive on them. 

"Mom," I asked, "why are the presents from Santa wrapped in the same paper that you used?"

"Santa Claus is poor this year," she said, "so we helped him out and let him use our gift wrap."

WHAT! How could Santa Claus be poor!? As I opened the presents that year, I found practical gifts like school supplies and socks and underwear. That was the worst, most disappointing Christmas I ever had! 

 As a young child, my husband had wondered about a white Santa Claus coming down a chimney (which his family didn't have) . . . or breaking in through a door or window . . . in an African-American neighborhood in the city. He didn't have a chance! 

So when our children were born, we decided to teach them about the real Saint Nicholas. Our treatment of Santa Claus changed from that of a magical, all-seeing rewarder of good behavior to that of the true historical figure, a man who had accepted the free gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ, who became a priest and sought to live a life worthy of the calling of Christ to make provision for the needy. And, at the foot of our Christmas tree we placed a figurine of a kneeling Santa, adoring the Christ child.                              The True Saint Nicholas

The lyrics of the song, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, state: 
He sees you when you're sleeping, 
He knows when you're awake. 
He knows when you've been bad or good, 
So be good for goodness sake!

I would much rather my children believe this eternal message: 

But without faith it is impossible to please him: 
for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, 
and that he is a rewarder of them 
that diligently seek him. 
Hebrews 11:6 (KJV)

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