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You’d better not pout

Crying’s a no-no as well for it may not be who you expect.

Santa, right? Well . . . not exactly. Would you welcome Saint Nicholas?

Of course — who wouldn’t? Tradition has his birth occurring on March 15, 270, with death of natural causes on December 6, 342. He was 72 years old.

I’ve heard rumors that big brothers or nasty older sisters will sometimes tell the younger ones there’s no Santa Claus. A sneer and mean cackle may follow sending the younger sibling to run in panicky crying to a favorite parent (or, more likely, the one spotted first) to get confirmation that what so-and-so just told me is all a lie.

Yes, dear, there really is a Santa Claus, the true S.C. (I’ve always loved those initials) being Saint Nicholas. Indeed, he did live among us except, unlike most of us, he was recognized as a true saint, “a man of faith who lived his life in devotion to Christ.”

OK, saint I got. The child may or may not stifle a yawn (that’s bor-ing, right?) and scuffs his foot when a parental nod reminds him to stop kicking the chair. But Santa Claus? You know, that fat guy — red suit, big white whiskers, the whole shebang.

“Nicholas was born in the third century in Asia Minor. He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, the sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. … Having saved young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine, and rescued a kidnapped boy, Nicholas is the Patron saint of children, innocents and others in need.” Actually the list goes on to include sailors, coopers, fishermen, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, brewers, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries throughout Europe. The list continues to broadcasters, pharmacists and the Greek Navy.

I regret I could find no more detail about his life for this man has to be every bit as busy as our red-suited fellow who flies through the air with his deer-powered sleigh, reaching all the ends of the world in just one long night. And since Saint Nick (if I may) gave in secret and tried to protect children, it isn’t too far a reach to understand that, even to today, families who celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day give their children small toys, fruit, cookies or candy put in stockings, socks, shoes or, if one must, a bag. Another tale has it that St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the chimney of a poor man who could not afford his daughter’s dowry. The bag fell into a stocking that had been left by the fire to dry.

“He also dropped a bag of gold for the second daughter. The father tried to find out who this mystery benefactor was, and when he did, Saint Nicholas begged him not to reveal his identity.

“Word soon got out, and when anyone received a secret gift, it was always thought to be Saint Nicholas. Some European countries celebrate Saint Nicholas’ Day on 6th December, when they leave out clogs or shoes to be filled with presents and sweets. Later, his feast day became associated with December 25th.”

And the red suit? Blame that on one very successful advertising campaign for Coca-Cola. They were the first to picture him wearing red robes with a fur trim which happened to be Coke’s colors. Turns out though that bishops at the time of Saint Nicholas did wear red and white robes. The red was tied to Father Christmas only in the nineteenth century. Earlier images of Saint Nicholas include a thin man, an intellectual (how do they look?) and one actually frightening. It was Coca-Cola who made him rotund and jolly with white hair.

Thank our Victorian ancestors for rediscovering the stories of Saint Nicholas, incorporating them in poetry and prose which of course continues to this day.

It was Clement Moore’s 1822 “A Visit from St Nicholas” that first introduced him as one to fly in a sleigh pulled by eight named reindeer, stopping from house to house to fill stockings. Thomas Nast later drew a series of cartoons placing Santa at the North Pole with a workshop to build toys and that giant book we all know that listed who was naughty and who nice.

There’s much more of course but it’s getting late and I think just maybe I’m hearing the tinkle of sleigh bells.

Let me go peek.

Susan Crossett has lived outside Arkwright for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.

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