Religious Customs in the Family
Many people think that Santa Claus is St. Nicholas "in disguise."
Actually, the two figures have nothing in common except the name. When the Dutch
came to America and established the colony of New Amsterdam, their children
enjoyed the traditional "visit of St. Nicholas" on December 5, for
the Dutch had kept this ancient Catholic custom even after the Reformation.
Later, when England founded the colony of New York in the same territory, the
kindly figure of Sinter Klaas (pronounced like Santa Claus) soon aroused the
desire among the English children of having such a heavenly visitor come to
their own homes, too.
The English settlers were glad and willing to comply with the anxious wish
of their children. However, the figure of a Catholic Saint and bishop was not
acceptable in their eyes, especially since many of them were Presbyterians,
to whom a "bishop" was repugnant. Also, they did not celebrate the
feasts of Saints according to the ancient Catholic calendar.
The dilemma was solved by transferring the visit of the mysterious man whom
the Dutch called Santa Claus from December 5 to Christmas, and by introducing
a radical change in the figure itself. It was not merely a "disguise,"
but the ancient Saint was completely replaced by an entirely different character.
Some clever mind invented this substitution in the eighteenth century.
Behind the name Santa Claus no longer stands the traditional figure of St.
Nicholas, but the pagan Germanic god Thor (after whom Thursday is named). To
show the origin of the modern Santa Claus tale, let us give some details about
the god Thor from ancient Germanic mythology:
Thor was the god of the peasants and the common people. He was represented
as an elderly man, jovial and friendly, of heavy build, with a long white beard.
His element was fire, his color red. The rumble and roar of thunder were said
to be caused by the rolling of his chariot, for he alone among the gods never
rode on horseback, but drove in a chariot drawn by two white goats (called Cracker
and Gnasher). He was fighting the giants of ice and snow, and thus became the
Yule-god. He was said to live in the "Northland," where he had his
palace among the icebergs. By our pagan forefathers he was considered as the
cheerful and friendly god, never harming humans, but rather helping and protecting
them. The fireplace in every home was especially sacred to him, and he was said
to come down through the chimney into his element, the fire. (See H.A. Guerber,
Myths of Northern Lands, Vol. I, p. 61ff., New York, 1895.)
Here, then, is the true origin of our "Santa Claus." It certainly
was a stroke of genius that produced such a charming and attractive figure for
our children from the withered pages of pagan mythology. With the Christian
Saint, however, whose name he still bears, this Santa Claus has really nothing
to do. To be honest and historically correct, we should rather have to call
him "Father Thor," or some such name.
Perhaps this will make it clear to parents why it is so difficult to explain
"Santa Claus" as St. Nicholas. There is no basis for such an explanation;
the two figures are entirely different. Considering the historical background,
it might even seem better not to tell the children at all that "Santa Claus"
is another name of St. Nicholas. Should we not rather let them consider St.
Nicholas their Patron Saint (December 6) and Santa Claus, the delivery man of
presents (December 24), as two completely unrelated figures, as they really
The fairytale of Santa Claus will not be abolished easily, despite the efforts
of well-meaning people. Nor does it seem necessary. Children do like fairytales,
and Santa Claus is one of the most charming of them. Catholic parents might
use it without harm, provided they apply some safeguards to avoid an undue overstressing
of the Santa Claus figure. Perhaps the following suggestions might help:
Keep the Santa tale in its simple, appealing form and shun the corruptions
introduced by commercial managers, like Santason, Mrs. Santa Claus and similar
Never allow the figure of Santa Claus to dominate the child's mind. The Child
Jesus must be the main figure in all his Christmas thinking. Picture to him
Santa as merely a servant and deliveryman, delightful but not very important.
I know a mother who had explained this to her children. One day she pointed
out to them how Santa Claus was to be seen in every department store and how
he drew so much attention to himself. The children found it highly amusing that
this delivery-servant of God should try to make himself the center of the celebration.
"He is a little dumb, isn't he?" said the girl, "but Jesus likes
him and we like him, too."
Do not let your children present their wishes to Santa. If you want them to
write down what they desire, let them write to the Child Jesus, according to
the old Catholic custom. Santa does not give the presents; he only delivers
what the Lord sends.
The above suggestions will also help to lessen the "shock" when the
children find out that "there is no Santa." As one mother did when
her little boy came full of doubts and asked her if there really was a Santa
Claus, such a question should always be answered in truth - no matter how small
the child is.
"Of course not," said the mother quietly, "that's only a story
for very small children. You are a big boy now, so you understand how it really
is. Our dear Lord does not need a delivery-man. He has already given you somebody
who loves you very much and who is happy to give you the Christmas presents
in His Name. Do you know who these persons are?"
The child thought for a moment, then he said, "Daddy and Mother?"
"Yes, my dear," answered she, "and would you not rather that
Father and I give you the presents? We love you more than Santa Claus does."
"Why didn't you tell me that before?"
"Because it is nice for little children to believe in Santa. Aren't you
glad you did?"
Again the boy thought for a minute. "Yes, it was nice," he said finally,
Then he added, "But it's much nicer now."
Not every case can be handled exactly this way, of course. There are various
ways of doing it. Howerver, by following the general idea, parents will have
no trouble in setting their children straight about the Santa tale when the
right moment comes. The descriptions of great disappointment and psychological
conflicts we often read about apply only to families where the parents have
misled their own children by allowing Santa to take the central place instead
of Christ, whose birthday is the only reason for the whole feast.
Important Note: This book was written in 1956, when the Catholic Church had
not yet surrendered to the modern world, and while it still had a powerful influence
on American culture. If Christmas was commercialized then, what can be said
about the state of things in 2005? Liberalism has made great strides since then,
and truth has been attacked from every side. In this age of "truth is relative"
and "find your own truth", it seems safer to omit the Santa Claus
myth entirely for the sake of a solid formation in embracing the truth always.
Also, the Santa Claus myth has lost whatever charm it had in the 1920's or 1950's.
Consider that the author's memories of Santa Claus dated back to his own childhood
-- sometime before the 1920's!
In our day, when even Christian parents often choose their children's names
without regard to hallowed traditions, the Church still strongly insists that
a Saint's name be given in Baptism, at least as the middle name, whenever the
chosen first name is not of Christian origin or significance. It is an ancient
tradition that children be given the name of a Saint whom later they should
come to know, to love and to venerate.
It is sad to behold how many parents overlook the importance and great meaning
of this religious tradition. Of all things a person can acquire in this life,
his name is the first and closest possession; in a way, it is himself. When
Our Lord was to be born, God did not leave the choice of the name to human beings.
He Himself chose the Saviour's name and considered it important enough to send
an Angel to announce His choice to St. Joseph.
Today a child's name is given in a similar supernatural setting. When the sacred
ligturgical ceremonies of Baptism come to their peak, at the very moment the
Sacrament is performed, the priest solemnly announces the name of the child.
As the light of a heavenly beacon, originating together with baptismal grace,
this name accompanies you through life. If you are a woman and marry, your last
name will be changed - but your baptismal name remains forever, a beautiful
symbol of the Sacrament's lasting mark on your soul.
No wonder that Christians have always considered it a matter of great importance
to give their children names which would have a special religious meaning and
significance, the names of God's favorite friends. Fortunately, many of our
modern first names are abbreviations or alternate forms of Saints' names, although
the parents do not realize it. They should try to find out what the name means
that they would like to give their child. If it does not in any way represent
a Saint's name, then they might be well advised to consider another choice,
or at least connect it with a Christian name (like Shirley Ann). In fact, if
the parents neglect the choice of a Christian name, the Church directs the priest
to add one of his own choice in Baptism.
Our children should be instructed from their earliest years about the meaning
of their names. Mother can explain to them who the Saint was whose name they
bear. They should be taught to pray to him every night, to love him and to consider
him a special heavenly friend and protector.
The great advantage of this familiarity with the personal Patron Saint lies
in the fact that children thus acquire a lasting, deep and solid spiritual relation
to Saints. There is no danger of mere emotionalism or sentimentality, as often
happens later if they make their first acquaintance with Saints in the Catholic
school. This early relation to the Patron Saint is based on the bedrock of objective
realities, not on mere sweet feelings. For what is more real to a child than
his own self, identified by his own name? And if this name presents to the little
one the figure, life and story of a great Saint of God, it is easy to see what
influence it will exert on him.
Taken from Religious
Customs in the Family by TAN
Books & Publishers, Inc.
Other pages discussing Catholic
doctrine and history:
- Our Lord Jesus Christ
- The Sacred Heart
of Jesus - Learn all about this beautiful devotion to Our Lord.
- The Shroud of Our Lord -
Discusses the convroversy over the Shroud of Turin - is it real or a forgery? Evidence points to its authenticity.
- Infinite Mercy of Jesus - Learn how
the Heart of Jesus has a strong desire to love and pardon sinners who sincerely return to Him.
- The Blessed Virgin Mary
- The Blessed Virgin Mary
- Immaculate, pure, and our most powerful intercessor after Our Lord
- The Holy Slavery
- To Jesus, through Mary -- the same way Jesus came to us (through His Mother)
- Edifying and Beautiful -
Learn about God's Providence in regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary, her graces and merits, the details of her life!
- Our Lady of Fatima - Her predictions and warning for the future.
- Saints who Saw Mary
- Tells the story of 17 great Saints who saw and heard the Blessed Mother, whom they were so devoted to!
- History and Culture
- Wearing Pants Incites Men to Lust
- Learn how women's fashions have corrupted, how evil forces are behind most modern fashions, and much more! Includes practical advice.
- How to Run a Catholic Family
- Discusses how to bring the Catholic Faith into family life! How the family can best celebrate feast days, and make use of good Catholic customs.
- A TRUE History Book -
This premise of this history book: The coming of Jesus Christ was the most important event in history.
- Catholic History Workbook -
Fascinating; hard to put down! It makes more sense of History than secular books which explain things in a disjointed manner.
- Homeschooling Workbook -
With questions for every chapter of Christ in the Americas - multiple choice, fill in the blank, true/false, and more!
- Crisis in the Church
- Read about St. Athanasius - faithful and courageous, known as the "champion of orthodoxy". One of the 33 Doctors of the Church!
- St. Athanasius - The great defender of the Catholic Faith against Arianism
- Crisis in the Church - How the enemies of God plot to overthrow the Church from within.
- Revolution in the Church - How Vatican II and its aftermath caused a crisis in the Catholic Church.
- Freemasonry - Pope Leo XIII unmasks this evil society, and forbids all Catholics to join.
- Combination of ALL Heresies - Pope St. Pius X unmasks the Modernists, giving us their doctrine and methods!
- Vatican II - Impartially discusses what happened at Vatican II -- mostly quotes from the men that were there!
- Fascinating if true - A man's deathbed confession.
- St. Therese, the Little Flower
- St. Therese the Little Flower - Under obedience, she tells the story of her childhood, religious life, etc.
- Mother of St. Therese - Learn about the woman who raised 5 saintly daughters, all of which entered the religious life!
- Father of St. Therese - Learn about the man who let the holy family of Lisieux so well, that his 5 daughters entered a convent!
- From the Sister of St. Therese - In her biography, she writes many things not found in
Story of a Soul.
- Lives of the Saints
- Learned Mystic and Theologian -
St. John of the Cross suffered greatly, even prison, for the Carmelite Reform. Father of the Discalced Carmelites.
- Beautiful story of a young girl -
Anne de Guigne was clever and passionate, yet practiced humility and all the other virtues -- and she died at the age of 10.
- Refuge for Billions of Catholics -
Catholics have always prayed to these saints in their necessities. St. Blaise, St. Christopher, etc. Includes countless novenas!
- St. Anne - Grandmother of Our Lord -
According to Ven. Mary of Agreda, she possessed all the virtues, especially purity. Learn more about her!
- Young Italian Maiden -
Who suffered the Stigmata every Friday, and was pious from her youth. St. Gemma Galgani, called the "Gem of Christ"
- Heroic Chastity -
Read how St. Maria Goretti had to give up her life to preserve her purity! She is called the patroness of youth.
- All Glory to Almighty God -
Well documented cases of the miraculous taken from the lives of the Saints. Fascinating!
- Defeated Persian Sorcerers -
The glorious life of St. Jude Thaddeus, Apostle and cousin of Our Lord, as taken from ancient Catholic traditions.
- Angels and Devils -
Learn all that Scripture and Tradition teaches us about the pure spirits God created. Fascinating and enlightening!
- Life of Mary Magdalen - Learn fascinating details of her life that you didn't know before! From the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich.
- The Angel of the Judgment
- At a critical point in Church history, his preaching and miracles served as a warning of impending chastisement.
- Miracles All His Life -
The miraculous was very common in the life of St Gerard Majella, great saint and Patron of Expectant Mothers.
- Eyewitness to Gospel events -
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich saw so many biblical events in her visions. Be inspired and edified by her virtuous life!
- United with Jesus Christ -
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- this zealous missionary and client of Our Lady is a model for all Catholics. Read about his saintly life.
- She saw her Guardian Angel
- this innocent girl tells us the story of her saintly life -- beautiful, inspiring!
- Servants of Satan
Establish Paganism - Astrology, witchcraft, and countless systems of idolatry
set up after the Confusion of Tongues.
- Fervent Catholic Indians - Father De Smet was like an Apostle, suffering greatly to bring the True Religion to the Native American peoples.
- Classic Sermons for Lent - On the Last Things, aimed at moving you to serve God even more
faithfully. By St. Francis de Sales.
- Those Who Met St. Padre
Pio - Stories of conversions, miracles, etc. from those who met this living Crucifix. Recently canonized.
- Beat Up by the Devil
- This great Saint had prophetic visions in the form of dreams, and often physically struggled with the devil.
- Life of St Gertrude
- Our Lord appeared to her many times, and she was much loved by Him because of her purity.
- Jesus Dearly Loved Her
- Because of her love and confidence in him, her heart was His favorite place to dwell, after the Blessed Sacrament.
- The Dolorous Passion - Giving never before seen details of Our Lord's Passion! From
the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich.
- Braving the English
Torture - St. Margaret Clitherow was a wife and mother - and she kept the Faith even to martyrdom!
- Details of The Good Thief - Learn about his life with a gang of brigands, how he helped the
Holy Family, and much more.
- Classic Catholic Sermons - You won't fall asleep here! Sermons by a Doctor of the Church, filled with energy and the spirit of Faith.
- Miracles Taking Place Today - St. Philomena is famous for the number of miracles surrounding her shrine - here are some of them.
- Isabella of Spain - A holy Catholic queen, and a valiant defender of Christ's kingdom.
- St Anthony - the Wonder Worker - His life was filled with proofs that God was with him.
- St Vincent de Paul - famous for his charities, this great Saint was canonized only 77 years after his death!
- The Cure of Ars - Three of him could destroy the devil's kingdom! Read about his physical struggles with Satan.
- St. Rita - Nothing is impossible with God! Her life is an example for us all, especially to mothers.
- Sermons of St. Francis de Sales - Here he speaks all about the kinds of prayer.
Learn what (and what not) to do!
- St. Teresa of Avila - She founded many convents, which were to adhere to the strict observance of the Carmelite Rule.
- St. Elizabeth of Hungary - Known for her generosity to the poor
- Alexandrina - A victim soul who suffered the Passion on Fridays
- The Spiritual Life
- Jesus, Prisoner of Love
- Meditations on the most beautiful doctrine of the Catholic Faith - the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
- Spiritual Exercises
- Written by a great saint, these meditations have converted millions of souls.
- Manual of the Spiritual Life - Your duties as a penitent toward your confessor/spiritual director.
- Lessons from Calvary - 31 meditations on Our Lord's Passion that will help you to easily avoid sin.
- Finding Peace of Heart
- Only by knowing how to follow God's will, can a person be truly happy.
- Strategy for Getting to Heaven - We must learn how the devil works on us, how to avoid his snares, to win the "War for our Souls".
- How to Fight the Deadly Sins - Timeless advice on how to combat each of the Capital sins.
- A Manual for Confession -
How to benefit from the Sacrament of Penance: common pitfalls, scruples, how to make a good exam of conscience, and much more.
- Seven Deadly Sins -
Learn about the different forms of pride, avarice, lust, anger, envy, gluttony and sloth.
- How to Pray Well -
How we should pray to God - with confidence, perseverance, simplicity. Advice from St. Alphonsus Liguori!
- Marriage & Family
- How to Raise Good Catholic Children - With examples from the saints and wise and thoughtful commentary - a must-read for every parent!
- Haunted by Children She Aborted - Testimony from her own mouth: how she had 7 abortions, and how her life changed afterward.
- Catholic Doctrine on Marriage - Common sources of marital strife and how to avoid them, the differences between the sexes, periodic abstinence, and more.
- Your Labor of Love - The author talks about isolation, sufferings, the modern culture, and more.
- Spiritual Growth during Pregnancy - How expecting a child can bring a woman closer to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Includes much practical advice.
- St. Joseph
- St. Joseph - After Our Lady, the holiest mere man who ever lived
- Privileges of St. Joseph - Why St. Joseph receives so much honor in the Church
- Novenas to St. Joseph -
Universal Patron - Pray to St. Joseph for all of your needs - Jesus, now in Heaven, still listens to him as a father!
- The Last Things/Afterlife
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- Life Everlasting - Discusses death, judgment, heaven and hell; also the vices and virtues
- Beyond the Grave -
What we know about Purgatory from sacred history and the lives of the saints.
- Peaceful Rest or Almost Like Hell? - Discusses the two opposing Catholic viewpoints on the subject of Purgatory.
- Purgatory - Learn what the Catholic Church has always taught on this subject.
- What Will Hell be Like? - Discusses the sufferings of Hell in detail.
- Eternity of Hell - Including a story from a soul who was sent there!
- Catholic Doctrine and Dogma
- What is Sanctifying Grace? -
Learn all about the nature of Grace, what it does for us, how to increase it in our souls, and its importance.
- Catholic Dogma of Grace - God's grace vs. man's ability to merit for his actions.
- Sin and Forgiveness - True Catholic doctrine with quotes from Scripture and the Fathers.
- The Intellect of the Angels - What Catholic theology says about the angels.
- Simple Easy-to-Understand Catechism - For Catholics to better learn their faith, or to give to possible converts.
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- The Mass Keeps the World in Existence - and other lofty considerations; helps Catholics
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- The Catholic Mass - Why it is so priceless; relates actual events which prove it!
- The Catholic Faith - Easy to read and follow, using the most solid Catholic doctrine. Very thorough.
- What Does The Bible Say About Marriage? - Find all Bible quotes about "Anger", for example, gathered into one page.
- Defending the Faith/Apologetics
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learn about the real man.
- The Faith of our Fathers - A topic-by-topic explanation of what the Catholic Faith teaches. Great for apologetics!
- The Bible Explained - Why were all those various stories placed in the Bible for us to read? Here is why!
- How Christ Changed Society - Compare the ancient world with the world influenced by Christ.
- Scripture Alone for Salvation? - Even the Bible itself denies this! Read 21 compelling
reasons why Tradition is also necessary.
- The Bible is a Catholic book - Convincing arguments show clearly that criticism of the Catholic Church has no truthful basis! Excellent apologetics based on history.
- Defend Catholic Dogmas - Find rational arguments for what Catholics believe.
- Theory of Evolution
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A learned scientist discovers that there is no evidence FOR Evolution, but plenty AGAINST it!
- Proofs against Evolution -
Plenty of evidence against Evolution is out there, but it is often ignored by the media. Fascinating!
- Evolution is a
Fraud - So say countless biologists and scientists! Read more...
- King of Jerusalem
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- Exciting Adventures
- Tom Playfair and his friends at a Jesuit boarding school. Exciting, Catholic, fun!
- More Catholic Adventures
- written by Fr. Finn - Percy Wynn meets Tom Playfair and friends, and enters the boarding school (St. Maure's).
- Perpetual Motion Boy
- The Fr. Finn boarding school universe expands with Claude Lightfoot and other interesting characters.
- That Football Game
- written by Fr. Finn - Which is more important? English class, a math competition, or an upcoming football game?
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