“Daddy, I know why Santa wears red: so that it would be easier for people to see him in the snow.” Such was Iva’s giddy contemplation a day before the scheduled visit by the beloved jolly bearded man at her Japanese kindergarten (youchien).
One can only guess what the Father of American Cartoon, Thomas Nast, had in mind when he featured the legendary man at the Harper’s Weekly back in the 19th century, although red may have not yet stuck as Santa’s “official” color back then. Coca-Cola Company, which began using Santa Claus in its Christmas campaigns in the 1920, may have put a stamp on that, the way chicken has become a staple at Christmas dinners in Japan, thanks to the brilliant marketing plan by Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1974. As with many other countries, Santa Claus takes center stage at Christmas in Japan, being one of its biggest adopted festivities.
But amidst all the Christmas craze, what would Saint Nicholas, the man behind the Santa Claus legend, have said about all these?
“All legend is based on some fact, and the facts which history records is that in the 3rd – 4th Century, there lived a person named Nicholas on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea in an area known as Asia Minor; that he was significant enough to be made a Bishop and spiritual enough to be called by the title Saint,” says writes best-selling author William J. Federer in his book, There Really Is A Santa Claus.
In a recent interview (Listen here), Federer said Nicholas was left a loot by his parents, who died from a plague that had swept through their town. Nicholas, then, decides that he was going to give away all the money he had inherited and help the poor. However, he did not want to get the credit for it but God alone. “So, he sneaks into town at nighttime and throws the money in the window of poor people. Supposedly, it lands in a shoe or stocking that’s strung by the fireplace,” Federer added.
And just like most Christians of his time, Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned for standing up for his faith, which may well be the only reason that Nicholas would ever be wearing red – in view of his persecution as a staunch defender of Christianity and trinitarian theology. That, but never to put a flash focus on himself, even as a gracious giver.
Most probably, then, if Nicholas were to pick the suit, Santa Claus would don something of a polar bear’s coat to vanish in the snow. His gift-giving too would be as quiet as that silent but holy and glorious night when the Word-become flesh made His dwelling among men.
And Nicholas would have surely welcomed a legend’s apology for jolly old Santa, such as this one by Jennifer Beahm Crawford:
My dear precious Jesus, I did not mean to take your place,
I only bring toys and things and you bring love and grace.
People give me lists of wishes and hope that they came true;
But you hear prayers of the heart and promise your will to do.
Children try to be good and not to cry when I am coming to town;
But you love them unconditionally and that love will abound.
I leave only a bag of toys and temporary joy for a season;
But you leave a heart of love, full of purpose and reasons.
I have a lot of believers and what one might call fame;
But I never healed the blind or tried to help the lame.
I have rosy cheeks and a voice full of laughter;
But no nail—scarred hands or a promise of the hereafter.
You may find several of me in town or at a mall;
But there is only one omnipotent you, to answer a sinner’s call.
And so, my dear precious Jesus, I kneel here to pray;
To worship and adore you on this, your holy birthday.
Hopefully, Facebook never decides to block this wonderful Christmas contemplation on social media ever again.
Barton, E. Why Japan celebrates Christmas with KFC. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20161216-why-japan-celebrates-christmas-with-kfc
Craig, W.L. (2015 December 20). Should Parents Let their Children Believe in Santa Claus. Retrieved from https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/should-parents-let-their-children-believe-in-santa-claus/
Federer, W.J. (2003). There Really is a Santa Claus: The History of Saint Nicholas & Christmas Holiday Traditions. St. Louis, MO, USA. Amerisearch, Inc.
Maulle, W. ‘Violent or Graphic’: Facebook Censored This Christmas Image of Santa Claus Kneeling Before Baby Jesus. Retrieved from https://www.faithwire.com/2018/12/10/violent-or-graphic-facebook-censored-this-christmas-image-of-santa-claus-kneeling-before-baby-jesus/
Sanders, F. (2007 December 24). Saint Nicholas / Santa Claus Songs. Retrieved from http://scriptoriumdaily.com/saint-nicholas-santa-claus-songs/
Santa suit. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_suit
5 Things You Never Knew About Santa Claus and Coca-Cola (2012 January 01). Retrieved from https://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/coke-lore-santa-claus
Turek, F. Are Christmas traditions really Christian? Retrieved from https://crossexamined.org/are-christmas-traditions-really-christian/