Christmas is a holiday that many young people look forward to. It is the time of the year when we catch up on well-needed rest, especially after going through a tumultuous year. And this is what I did after completing my GCE ‘O’ Levels in November (which really took a toll on my physical and mental health).
Weeks have passed since and before I knew it, December was here. Landscaping companies rush to put up electrifying light displays, families bring their children on trips to toy stores. There are virtual choirs passionately singing choruses of classic Christmas carols to warm the hearts of anyone that hears them. As I walked down Orchard Road all decked out in Christmas lights, I found myself pondering over this question…
What is the meaning of Christmas?
Surely Christmas is about Baby Jesus! But why is Santa Claus featured a lot more prominently in decorations at the malls and social media? The chubby old man adorned in red can be found everywhere. He seems to be the default icon for Christmas. Does this mean that Christmas is about Santa Claus?
Who is this Santa Claus? Is he even real?
It seems that this chubby old man was actually based on a real person. His name was St. Nicholas and Santa Claus was a translation of his Dutch name - Sinterklaas. He was a priest in the 3rd century who loved God and was a patron saint to children. In some historical accounts he was recorded as a generous man who gave unconditionally to the needy. He passed away on December 6 and that day was named St. Nicholas Day to commemorate his act of charity. On December 5, the eve of his death, a feast would be prepared together with gifts for everyone, whether rich or poor. By the 16th century, Sinterklaas’ customs of giving presents had spread since his death and the practice of handing out snacks or gifts on the eve of St. Nicholas Day for children of poor families became popular.
All these feastings, giving gifts and doing good deeds inspired by St. Nicholas sounded very much like what we do on Christmas Day. It seems that we have muddled up these two events! Or was there only one event which morphed into another?
Regardless of this confusion, having Santa Claus (aka St. Nicholas) as a mascot for Christmas may not be a bad thing. At least, his good deeds captured the spirit of Christmas. And his action was inspired by God’s love! As a Christian priest, he knew that God is love and His greatest act of love was to send His Son Jesus Christ to save the world. As John 10:10 reads “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
That is truly the meaning of Christmas!
When we all burst into joyous celebration this coming Christmas, let us remember that it is not just a time to rest and rejuvenate. It is a time of thanksgiving and remembering the true meaning of Christmas – God’s gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
This article was written by Mishael Lee, an intern at PPS.