Tuesday, December 4, 2012


From the time that our kids were little, I determined that I didn't want to mislead them about Santa Claus. Now I also want to be truthful with our grandkids. But I don't want to play the role of the Grinch! So my answer, when the direct question comes, is "There was a real man named St. Nicholas who lived many years ago. He was kind to children and poor people, and over many years his name changed to Santa Claus. Our Santa Claus is a fun way that we remember St. Nicholas at Christmas."

Here's one way to tell the story:


Saint Nicholas, the legends say,
became our Santa in this way:
while passing by a widow's door
his heart was moved to help the poor.

Her humble hut brought to his mind
the  little shed Joseph did find
on Christmas Eve so long ago,
when Christ was born to Mary. So

he went to church and knelt in prayer
to ask a way that he could care
for widows and for chidren, too;
and as he stood, he spied his shoe!

His shoe?! An idea came to mind:   
"I know just the place to find
a way to do what I will do!
The answer's here inside my shoe!"

He took a stocking(!) from the shelf,
and – all in secret, by himself –
he poured a few gold coins inside,
and said, "I’ll take a Christmas ride!”

No--no reindeer – no, not yet.
Don't rush the story – don't forget
that we're still at the early part.
He rode off in a donkey cart!

They trotted up the village road
and found the widow's small abode.
"Shh, you stay here," said good St. Nick,
"While I go play my little trick."

He tossed the sock as he passed by,
but then his aim went far too high!
(The old saints eyes were old, you see.)
He threw it down the chim-n-ey!

(And ever since, on Christmas Eve,
like all good children, we believe
St. Nicholas with his sock of gold
will find all Christmas chimneys cold!)

The widow thought she heard a sound
and toward her hearth she turned around,
and there upon the ashes cold
she found a stocking full of gold!

In her happiness she knew
exactly what she had to do:
A feast for the whole neighborhood!
(The good saint's deed was doing good!)

And Nicholas kept giving more,
kept finding ways to help the poor.
Stockings, sacks. And sometimes toys
were in his bag for girls and boys.

All this started way down south;
but soon – by song and word-of-mouth –
the story told on desert sands
had found its way to winter lands.

So way up north, in ice and snow,
the donkey – well, he had to go;
he's grazing in the southern sun.
It's reindeer now for St. Nick's run!

And stockings? It's not hard to see
that they're still near the chim-n-ey;
but not down in the fireplace –
the mantle's a much nicer place.

And lips like cherries? Twinkling eyes?
Reindeer flying through the skies?
All that about "The Night Before...?"
The credit goes to Clement Moore.*

But what about old Santa's name?
you said St. Nicholas became
the Santa that we know today.
Has Nick's name changed along the way?

That's easy. Say it two times, fast:
Saint Nicholas, San-ti-calas;
now, two times more, don't stop to pause:
San-ti-calus – Hey! "Santa Claus!"

Some things change, some stay the same.
And Santa Claus by any name
is still the spirit of St. Nick,
still chuckling at his little trick.

And we, with stockings lined up straight
on Christmas Eve can hardly wait.
We go to bed, we wake to see
what Santa brings for you and me.

But there's a lesson we learn, too,
when Santa visits me and you.
It's from a story, long and old:
The widow shared good St. Nick's gold.

Saint Nicholas, the legends say,
became our Santa in this way:
While passing by a widow's door
his heart was moved to help the poor.

 © Richard Jorgensen

This  story is based (very loosely!) on legends that grew up around the historical
figure of Nicholas, a bishop who lived in Turkey in the fourth century. Nicholas
was renowned for his good deeds, and was later declared to be “Saint Nicholas.”

*Most of our images and traditions about Santa Claus today come from
the delightful poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” (“’Twas the Night Before
Christmas”) written by The Rev. Clement Moore for his children on Christmas
Eve, 1822.


Joseph G. Crippen said...

Dick, this is good stuff. We, too, did not teach Santa to our kids as real, but talked about Nicholas. Would have been nice to have this poem.

Charlie Ruud said...

Love it, Dick. Now, to only convince my beloved wife....

Nancy Brown said...

Awesome Dick! Send it to the St Nicholas website - this lady up in Canada I think runs it singlehandedly and has good stuff there http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/home/
My kids still get the gold coins in their shoes tomorrow morning and we'd do our LSS Family shopping as close to the day as possible. But Santa still came on Dec 25 too :)