St. Nicholas Deserves Some PR

You cannot escape seeing the image of Santa Claus at this time of the year.  Although the Christmas season is really about the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Santa Claus figure dominates the retail season and the mindsets of children worldwide as they anxiously await the toys and goodies he will bring on his sleigh come Christmas Eve.

For many of us, the innocence of childhood can best be reflected in our belief in this jolly old soul. From the letters we wrote to him at the North Pole, filled with our wish list of the toys we wanted for Christmas, our visits to him at the department store or mall and the numerous shows and movies we watched on television, Santa Claus was as real as the full head of hair on our childhood head.

But then, at some point along our path through grade school, our innocence was shattered as a fellow classmate, sibling or eventually our parents, broke the news that Santa wasn’t real at all.  Christmas was never the same again, until we had children of our own and suddenly, we couldn’t wait to share with them the stories of Santa and our beliefs in him. 

What has always struck me is why this need to raise the spirits of children, only to see them shattered when there is a true historical person that the legend of Santa Claus is based on.

Christians know him as St. Nicholas and history records him as Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.  His is a tale of great courage, charity and a love of children. It is no wonder why his life and legend became the basis for the Santa Claus character. This belief was brought to this country by Dutch settlers and was later immortalized in Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.”

Although St. Nicholas is not a client of iMedia Public Relations, I thought it was time that someone did a little publicity for his cause. We’re not the only ones that feel that way.

A tremendous resource for learning about the life of Nicholas is through the St. Nicholas Center, a registered non-profit corporation in the State of Michigan with federal tax exempt status, which cooperates with other organizations around the globe that share its concerns for St. Nicholas. They have created a virtual knowledge center about St. Nicholas. Their gives a great accounting to the life of Nicholas, his legend, good deeds and role in the early Christian Church.  Here’s a brief biological sketch of Nicholas taken from the home page.

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas of Myra became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6 (December 19 on the Julian calendar).

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

In addition to the St. Nicholas Center it also appears that there soon will be a motion picture of Nicholas of Myra, which should help drive the message to the masses.

So, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us all take a moment to give some publicity not to a costumed figure at the mall, but to the life of an individual who can truly inspire us all.  There’s no need to dampen the spirits of children the world over.  Teach them about a man who truly lived and followed the teachings of Jesus, the one the Christmas season is all about.  Nicholas was all about giving, and whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or even an atheist, he is a person who inspires good in all of us. 

Now it’s up to us, to tell the world and our children about the real Santa named Nicholas.

Tom Cosentino

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One Response to “St. Nicholas Deserves Some PR”

  1. St. Nicholas, Santa or what ever you call him…he is one of my favorite at Christmas. I have a collection of many images of the man …check out the link to see them. Enjoy

    http://fatquarter.wordpress.com

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