BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

John Denney 6 December 2002


Today is celebrated as St Nicholas’s Day.  He’s always been a popular saint, the patron saint of Russia and Greece and of children, sailors, scholars, and pawnbrokers.  I don’t know why he was connected with all of these, because not much is known about the life of this fourth century bishop.  He is said to have left secret gifts of gold as dowries for three young women who would not have been able to marry otherwise.  Some versions of the story say that he used to drop purses of coins down poor people’s chimneys.


Perhaps that’s why Saint Nicholas has become known to us as Santa Claus.  Santa, who brings gifts to good little boys and girls, also called Father Christmas.  It wasn’t until the late 1500s that gifts were given at Christmas-time rather than December 6th, as the reformers in the church put the emphasis on the Christ-child as the gift-giver on his own feast day, 25th December.


I’ve just come back from a holiday in Vienna, and in that beautiful city the windows of the sumptuous confectioners’ shops are full of chocolate Santas  – and, surprisingly, chocolate demons.  In folk-lore from that part of Austria, a demon called Krampus is supposed to go around with Santa.  Instead of bringing a sack, full of presents for good little children, Krampus brings a disappointing sackful of coal for the naughty ones.  And the naughtiest of them all get carried away in Krampus’s sack, never to be seen again.  The story makes Viennese children behave themselves this time of year, anyway.


Santa, or Father Christmas as we tend to call him here, is a popular figure.  He brings us presents, if we’ve been good.


But the Christian message is not quite the same.  God gave the greatest gift of all, His son Jesus Christ, to an undeserving world.  We haven’t lived up to God’s standards, yet everlasting and joyful life is still on offer to us.  It’s a gift for the asking.


So, forgetting your age: whether you’ve been a good little girl or boy, or a naughty one, you can still have your best Christmas present.  And you don’t have to wait until Christmas Day.  But why not be a good girl or boy anyway?

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