[quote="alcuin, post:1, topic:181595"]
I understand that St. Nicolas's feast day (December 6th) was made non-mandatory for Catholics in 1968.
It seems to me that here in America, in an odd way, we celebrate St. Nicolas's feast day on December 24th. Ought we not just accept this and make it official? Would the best way to make this happen be to petition my local bishop?
It seems to me that it would go a long way towards turning Santa Claus back into St. Nick.
Actually, it was Martin Luther who encouraged his followers to give presents to children on Christmas Eve (even Christmas Day) rather than on St. Nicholas's Day. By the way, Santa Claus MEANS Saint (Santa) Nikolas (CLAUS) in Greek. In Bohemia and Germany, the feastday became very special for children. The Dutch called him Sinterklaas; the old Germans referred to him as Mynheer Niklaas.
The American version of this saint is very unique, and only occurred here, beginning in the early 19th century. In 1808, American author Washington Irving created a new version of old St. Nick. This one rode over the treetops in a horse drawn wagon "dropping gifts down the chimneys of his favorites." Irving described Santa as a jolly Dutchman who smoked a long stemmed clay pipe and wore baggy breeches and a broad brimmed hat. Also, the familiar phrase, "...laying his finger beside his nose...," first appeared in Irving's story.
That phrase was used again in 1822 in the now-classic poem by Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," more commonly know as "The Night Before Christmas." His verse gave an Arctic flavor to Santa's image when he substituted eight tiny reindeer and a sleigh for Irving's horse and wagon. It is Moore's description of Santa that we most often think of today: "He had a broad face, and a little round belly, that shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly."
in 1863, Thomas Nast, a German immigrant, gave us a visual image of the cheerful giver that was to later become widely accepted.
When Nast was asked to illustrate Moore's charming verse for a book of children's poems, he gave us a softer, kinder Santa who was still old but appeared less stern than the ecclesiastical St. Nicholas. He dressed his elfin figure in red and endowed him with human characteristics. Most important of all, Nast gave Santa a home at the North Pole. For twenty-three years, his annual drawings in Harpers Weekly magazine allowed Americans to peek into the magical world of Santa Claus and set the stage for the shaping of today's merry gentleman.
Artist Haddon Sundblom added the final touches to Santa's modern image. Beginning in 1931, his billboard and other advertisements for Coca Cola-Cola featured a portly, grandfatherly Santa with human proportions and a ruddy complexion. Sunblom's exuberant, twinkle-eyed Santa firmly fixed the gift-giver's image in the public mind.
It was a long development but one that is uniquely American. For Christians, I think they could begin celebrating the feast of Saint Nicholas again on his feastday of Dec. 5/6. Chrsitmas should be all about Jesus, not Santa Claus.