I know this seems really out of place. I'm still cleaning out the basement and other spots (still looking for that St. John Vianney relic) and came across this letter to the editor I had published in the North County Times (San Diego) on December 17, 1996. Posting it here means I can throw away the newspaper clipping!
Real Santa Claus indeed personified the spirit of love
Yes, there really is a Santa Claus. I'm responding to B.W. Tarwater's letter of Dec. 10 about the origin of Santa Claus.
B.W. wrote: "Someone apparently had the idea that the best way to explain (love) to little children would be to create an imaginary person who would personify the spirit of love." Tarwater is on the right track about the true spirit of Santa Claus, but seems unfamiliar with the origin of this tradition.
The name "Santa Claus" is actually Dutch for Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was a Bishop of Myra, Turkey, in the fourth century A.D. This much we know about him. The rest is legend, but I think you'll recognize a bit of our modern tradition in the stories.
The most famous story associated with him is about the three daughters of a poor man who, because they had no dowries in order to be married, were to be sold into prostitution. Nicholas heard of their plight and threw a bag of gold for each of them down the chimney where (according to some of the stories) they landed in the girls' stocknigs hung on the fireplace to dry.
The real Santa Claus certainly "would personify the spirit of love." We would do well to follow the example of the real Santa Claus by sharing our material blessing with those less fortunate than ourselves, particularly during the Christmas season. And what better way to teach the meaning of love to little children than by involving them in charitable activities and showing them how we can help those in need.
Alicia Van Hecke