Watching the Christmas films where Santa being locked up, threatened with a mental hospital and rendered, sans sled and reindeer brings us to a projected reality where we learn, "Christmas just can't happen without Santa!"
Actually, we celebrate a few feasts at this time of the year:
For the Jewish among us it's Hanukkah,
For the Pagans there's Saturnalia,
The Christians all celebrate Christmas,
And EVERYONE (or so it seems) celebrates Argostide.
Now the Jewish feast is the festival of lights - an story of the dedication of the (second) Jerusalem Temple and the miraculous continuation of light when the oil should have run out. Saturnalia was a Roman festival (even though my pagan mates tell me it was running long before people were writing stuff - but I don't know where they read that!) and it was about agriculture and giving of gifts and the like. It sort of made sense for the Christians to latch onto it to celebrate the birth of Jesus because the actual date wasn't known so whatever date they chose would have been an arbitrary one - so it's December 25th what gets the prize.
The Saturnalia bit is all too often bills as a feast that pagan romans chose but the more I have read into this the more it turns out that it has the fingerprints of people what are the result of a collision between pantheistist and polytheistic types and their God Saturn (Gk Cronus) the bloke what had the seasons and Agriculture especially in his hands.
So there we are - the Christians didn't actually hijack Saturnalia, they merely decided to celebrate one of their 'special days' on a day when it made sense - after all the public transport stopped, it was about times and seasons, the giving of gifts and that sort of thing - a ready made holiday time waiting to be used.
Now Nick was a bishop and the legend, as I understand it, is that there was a man with three daughters. He was so poor that he could not afford to provided a dowry for his girls and without the money they would remain unmarried and therefore destitute when he died: This meant they would either become slaves, prostitutes or die from starvation. The story continues that Nicholas, hearing of their plight tossed a bag of gold through the window where the girl were sleeping and this fell into, or onto, the shoes or stockings which were drying before the fire. Now some say once, some say three times, this happened - but the idea of a gift and fireplaces and stockings was set and that's what we have today. Some say the gold was in the shape of three golden globes and that's where Oranges come in as a Christmas stocking filler.
Aside for that Bishop Nicholas was a great leader, a wise bishop and an amazing example to all of us - take some time to look him up, you won't be disappointed!
Father Christmas - the modern St Nick is never going to be the reason for the season - Christmas, is for Nick what Saturnalia is for Christians - merely a convenient vehicle for the remembrance - and we need to remember who and what Christmas is all about, after all:
|Santa never died for you - did he?|
So let's let St Nicholas have his day today and then let us progress through Advent towards Christmas and the celebration of Jesus, the Christ, and the greatest gift the world has ever seen (no batteries required).