A Conversation with Santa

I was walking through the local shopping mall the other day. Being the Christmas season, I was amazed at how few shoppers were walking around. I happened to pass by the mall  Santa who was sitting alone with not a child in sight. He looked very bored and a bit tired. When he saw me, he smiled and waved, so I waved back. I suppose that being an Orthodox priest in my 60s,  I have that Santa look that resonated with him. He wasn’t a large man, but he had a natural white beard and he looked good in his red suit and black boots. So, since I wasn’t in a hurry, I walked over to chat with him.

After exchanging the usual niceties, he asked me if I had ever played Santa. I told him that I had only done it once when I was a much younger man. He told me I should apply next year and earn some extra money. I smiled and said that I couldn’t do it for a couple of reasons, but mainly because I honored St. Nicholas and I felt that the idea of the modern Santa was a corruption of this great man. The mall Santa looked a bit perplexed and said that he knew of “jolly old St. Nicholas.”   I thought I should enlighten him a little, so I asked him some questions.

“When did St. Nicholas live? What century?” I asked.
“The 12th century or the 13th, maybe?” he replied.
“No, it was the 4th century.”

“Where did he live?”
“Sweden or Norway?”
“No, he lived in the area we now call Turkey, or Asia minor.”

“What was his job? What did he do?”
“He was a toy maker?”
“No. He was a bishop in the Church.”

“What was he known for? What made him famous?
“He gave toys to children?”
“No, but he was very generous to the poor.”

With each question, the mall Santa seemed to get more and more uncomfortable, but I pressed on.

“Why do you wear a red suit?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Because it represents the color of blood. Its the color that a bishop can wear to represent the blood of Christ.”

“Why do you wear white?”
“You’ll tell me.”
“Yes, its the color of purity and it represents his attaining to Sainthood.”

“What about candy canes”?
He didn’t respond.
“It represents a bishop’s staff. And your black boots represents St. Nicholas victory over death and the devil. The stockings that we hang remind us of how he put money into the shoes of the poor.”

“Well,” the Santa asked me, “if he’s from Turkey, why is he dressed in furs?”
“That’s a good question. When his fame spread, many countries adopted him as a patron saint. Certainly, the people of the northern countries couldn’t have him running around in the snow unless he was in furs. In most countries, he isn’t in furs at all, but is dressed like a Bishop. He visits homes and churches, but most often he comes to tell the story of the birth of Christ. He brings simple gifts and reminds us that we should be generous to the poor. So, we don’t mind him being represented, but it should be as a bishop.”

“That makes sense.” the Santa replied. “But what about all this other stuff- reindeer and elves and coming down chimneys.”
I went on to tell him about the impact of the poem “The Night before Christmas” and the impact of the advertising campaign by Coca Cola.

I asked him if St. Nicholas was alive or dead and he responded that if he lived in the 4th century, he was most surely dead. I smiled and responded that anyone who is with Christ is most definitely alive, for Christ is not the God of the dead, but of the living. So, St. Nicholas was most definitely alive.

I could tell the the head of the mall Santa was about to explode, when a family with small children came up to see Santa. Santa seemed much relieved so I shook his hand and told him that should he ever want to know more about the real St. Nicholas, he should do some research and even better, he should come out and visit the Orthodox Church.

As I walked away, I glanced back and smiled as Santa greeted the children and placed them on his knee. He seemed relieved as he chanted the Kontakion of the mall Santa – “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

P.S. An Orthodox friend calls this modern day “icon” of St. Nickolas,  St. Consumo.

If you  ever get a chance, take time to inform the Santa at your local mall.

One Response to “A Conversation with Santa”

  1. susan Says:

    Do you mind if i send this on to a friend?

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