How does a “Good Catholic” rectify celebrating Christmas with The Nativity and Santa Claus? My answer is simple: Easy... after years of practice!
My dad calls Santa Claus the Father of Socialism: a kid gets something for nothing and that is a bad lesson for anyone, let alone kids. My cousin claims that Santa is Satan in disguise. He represents greed and materialism. My response is no; Santa is the opposite. He is a saint. He gives and expects nothing in return.
I can see how some people do not understand how we give our children presents from Santa, yet we profess that Christmas is about the birth of Christ. My husband is agnostic, and three of my five boys have autism. I have to mix my spiritual beliefs with a secular outlook in order to include all of my family members.
When asked years ago, my husband said that celebrating Christmas is the right thing to do. He grew up associating family with Christmas, and it was always celebrated, but I needed to ensure that my boys understood the true meaning of Christmas. I taught my boys what Christmas is—the birthday of Christ. We incorporated the simplest rituals of a birthday: baking a cake, singing Happy Birthday, and giving of presents.
We then delved into who was Santa. Our boys learned the history of Santa, who was based on St. Nicholas. He was a Greek bishop back in the fourth century who lived in Asia Minor. My boys learned the legend of St Nick’s gifts as a dowry for three daughters so they could be married. However, I emphasized that he brought gifts, without thought of receiving anything in return.
One of my favorite ornaments is St. Nick bowing before the Christ Child. This image clarifies everything: Christ is the focus. His birth, life, death, and resurrection is why we celebrate Christmas, and St. Nick lived his life as a Christian, witnessing the life of Christ.
As a family, we do much more to celebrate the birth of Christ. We celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas because the season begins on December 25, not ends. We add the Christ Child to our Nativity Scene on December 25 and leave it up until January 6.
It all comes down to Christ. He brings us together. He is why we celebrate. He is why St Nick brings us gifts.