St. Nicholas (Samichlaus)
There aren’t many historical facts that are known about St.Nicholas. Even without knowing much about him he has become one of the most popular saints. In the fourth-century he was bishop of Myrna.
The most memorable story about St. Nicholas recounts the time when he reached out to a family and helped them with acts of charity. There was a father with three daughters who were of marriageable age but he was unable to afford their dowries. If he couldn’t pay them, his daughters would have been forced into prostitution. St. Nicholas didn’t want to see them reduced to such indignity so he generously tossed a bag filled with gold through the poor father’s window on three different occasions. This story has evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s feast. St. Nicholas eventually came to be known as Santa Claus – further expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop. Charity comes from the heart and St. Nicholas displayed this. It is simply amazing how in the 4th century the people didn’t require government handouts. Instead, individuals donated items and money through acts of charity. Somehow they managed to survive under harsher conditions. Have we become a society filled with weak, dependent individuals who expect to be pampered and taken care of by others instead of having been instilled with a sense of personal and financial responsibility for one’s own well-being?
In Switzerland Santa Claus is known as Samichlaus in Swiss-German. In Switzerland they celebrate the custom of St. Nicholas on December 6. To celebrate the feast day Samiclaus hands out gifts of fruit, nuts, and chocolate. Today there seems to be some confusion between the traditions of St. Nicholas and the Traditions of Samichlaus so the Roman Catholic Church in canton Aargau decided to host the first ever “Samichlaus Synod” on November 12. It was so popular that 40 Samichlauses had to be turned away because all the slots were filled. In attendance were those volunteers who donned their St. Nicholas costumes each year. Their goal is to spread the message of Samichlaus to the urban areas where it is less likely for them to have knowledge of Samichlaus due to their stressful familial and economic conditions. At the Synod they shared experiences and attended workshops such as how to carry out a visit to Kindergarten and how to tell the traditional St. Nicholas story. “Children learn a poem about the St Nicholas tradition or play a song on an instrument and the St Nicholas then reads a story on the problems children might cause their parents, such as not helping out because they want to play outside,” said Rolf Wüst. He is the organiser of the Samichlaus group in the village of Wohlen, canton Aargau, which is celebrating its 70th jubilee this year.”
The most important reason for Christmas is Christ. Giving gifts has become a tradition as well. But as Christmas has become overly commercialized we must never forget the true reason for Christmas – Jesus. Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, came to us as a babe in swaddling clothes to experience humanity and show humans His Way. He preached the Gospel and showed people how to be followers of Christ. Sometimes man’s law is not in accordance with God’s Law. It is imperative for the welfare of our souls that we always choose to follow God’s law when it conflicts with man’s law. When we falter, fail, and sin we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess our sins, be forgiven and healed spiritually. May God Bless you during this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!