First, may I call you St. Nicholas? I’m much more comfortable with that name.
So St. Nicholas, now that Advent has begun I’m writing to tell you that I’m very concerned. I mean, what happened? For hundreds of years you were this beloved saint, a bishop who loved children and saved three sisters from a life of prostitution. You supposedly punched out a heretic
at the Council of Nicaea and then proclaimed the Truth. You were cool before cool was a word.
But now you’re seen as just being a fat guy in some silly red suit. Sure, people think of you as jolly and an all around guy, but you’ve been stripped of all your coolness and left as little more than a large elf who gives overindulged kids whatever they want for Christmas.
I’ve been thinking about it all and I guess it all began to shift with Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem Twas the Night Before Christmas. It’s a sweet poem; yet it removes all of history and Christianity, pretty much changing the very essence of who you are. Then Coca-Cola got hold of you and there was nothing left of the man you once were.
So I want you to know, St. Nicholas, that things are going to be different in my home. Of course my kids will “believe” in you! You’re a real person! A saint in Heaven! But, with all due respect, I don’t want you coming to my house on Christmas Eve. And I don’t want you giving my kids an overabundance of presents. I would quite prefer if you came the night before December 6th and filled their stockings. That way, on your feast day (the 6th) we can talk about you and celebrate your life as a holy man who lived for Christ. Christmas morning my husband and I will give our children a few presents, and we’ll even give them another gift come Epiphany, as we discuss how Christ is the True Gift of Christmas, and how the Wise Men gave what they had to Christ to honor Him.
Some day, if I ever get my act together, maybe you, Bishop of Myra, can come to our house for a St. Nick party. I’ll invite all the kids I know and when you come, dressed with your miter and crosier instead of a hat with a pompom, you can ask the kiddos what they’re doing to prepare for the birth of Christ, instead of asking them what they want for Christmas. My hope is that this will help my family keep Advent as we prepare ourselves for the Incarnation, and also shift the focus of Christmas away from you and back to the Infant Jesus.
I think this is a win-win situation. My kids will (hopefully) learn more about you as a saint, will see Christmas being less about presents and more about Christ, and will grow up rooted in the traditions of their beautiful faith. And they will still get to experience the “magic of Christmas” that comes from your visits. Plus you will regain some dignity in the way you’re represented and I’m quite confident you’ll rejoice in the way the glorious feast of Christmas is refocused on our Lord and Savior.
Also, please note that I’m not saying this is what I think all Catholic families should do. I think each family should foster the traditions they have or create new ones based on what they believe. My husband and I, though, are pretty certain that this is the best move for our family.
If you have any ideas or suggestions I am definitely open to hearing from you.
I am, most respectfully, yours sincerely.
P.S. Please pray for me and my family and give my boy Peter a big hug.
This letter appeared in a different form on my personal blog Learning to be a Newlywed.