Santa Claus is com­ing to town; Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions go up

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - OPINION - JERRY NI­CHOLS Colum­nist

I no­tice that peo­ple all around are be­gin­ning to dec­o­rate for Christ­mas and Santa Claus has al­ready made a brief stop in Pea Ridge.

Santa Claus gets around a lot more these days than he did when I was a young boy in the 1940s. When I was young, the only time we saw Santa Claus was at the end of our church Christ­mas pro­gram. Santa al­ways came at that time to hand out candy to us kids af­ter we had sung our songs and said our Christ­mas speeches.

Our Sun­day School classes usu­ally sang Christ­mas songs, and we young kids had short Christ­mas po­ems to mem­o­rize and say. We called them our “speeches.” Usu­ally our Christ­mas pro­gram in those early days was held on Christ­mas Eve, and I as­sume that Santa was al­ready on his way across the world with his rein­deer and sleigh, de­liv­er­ing gifts to young and old; so he would just make a brief stop at the end of our pro­gram. Those were World War II days, and there wasn’t a lot of candy in our house­holds. Santa brought each of us a small brown bag of hard candy, along with an orange. Or­anges, too, were rare dur­ing those times. Santa was fun af­ter our Christ­mas pro­gram, and I used to think he sounded a lot like Luther Martin, our gro­cery store man.

I some­times hear peo­ple lament­ing that Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions these days are too much about Santa and not enough about the birth of Je­sus. They used to say that in the 1940s, too, so that part hasn’t changed much.

But Santa didn’t get around to so many stores back then. We used to hear that he would visit the big stores in New York and ask the kids what they wanted for Christ­mas, but we never saw Santa in our stores in Pea Ridge. These days, Santa may be on TV sell­ing stuff, or you may see him in stores. He re­ally gets around. I’m think­ing how does he have time to make the toys at the North Pole or take care of his rein­deer team or get his sleigh ready for the trip across the world? I re­ally wish he would stay at the North Pole un­til Christ­mas Eve in­stead of work­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing for all these stores.

The sen­ti­ment that Christ­mas gets too com­mer­cial and too sec­u­lar is not a new con­cern. It has been around through­out my life­time. We seem to make progress, then fall back, and make progress and fall back. Some things you can fix and they stay fixed. Christ­mas, on the other hand, has to be in­ten­tion­ally re­stored ev­ery year.

It seems we can hardly wait for Christ­mas to be­gin, the buy­ing of stuff for Christ­mas, that is.

The ideal Christ­mas, it seems, ac­cord­ing to our ad­ver­tis­ing world, is to find just the right gifts to thrill ev­ery­one on our list, and for us to get it all at a bargain. If we don’t get a great deal, then it’s a downer. We have to hurry to get those great deals, be­cause if we don’t get there early then oth­ers will beat us to the deals. We have to buy like crazy or the great deals will soon be gone and we’ll have to pay full price, and that ob­vi­ously is no fun. One of the things that both­ers me about all this, is that Santa is of­ten pushed into en­cour­ag­ing it. He is even pre­sented as think­ing about buy­ing his gifts at the store and get­ting great deals in­stead of let­ting his elves build the dolls and toys for all the lit­tle chil­dren in the world.

I’m also think­ing, Santa started out as Saint Nick­o­laus, who wanted to show kind­ness and car­ing to the chil­dren at Christ­mas­time be­cause he was in­spired by the birth of the Christ Child. He was of the church, a de­vout Chris­tian, and he un­der­stood that the Christ­mas fes­ti­val is a cel­e­bra­tion of Christ and His sal­va­tion.

The best thing about Christ­mas is Je­sus, born in a sta­ble in Beth­le­hem, born to save, born that gen­uine life may be re­stored to humanity, and that all who will may have life and have it abun­dantly. When the world tries to cel­e­brate Christ­mas with­out the Christ, there re­ally is no cel­e­bra­tion. When you empty Christ­mas of its heart, what’s left is a truly empty shell; and an empty shell can’t be made full and happy by stuff and par­ties and hi­lar­ity.

I’m glad to have Santa com­ing to town, but I wish we could get him out of the ad­ver­tis­ing busi­ness and into things like An­gel Tree pro­grams.

The Christ of Saint Nick­o­laus once taught, “It is more blessed to give than to re­ceive.”

Saint Nick­o­laus knew that, taught that, prac­ticed that. Does to­day’s Santa Claus know that?

•••

Edi­tor’s note: Jerry Ni­chols, a na­tive of Pea Ridge and an award-win­ning colum­nist, is vice pres­i­dent of Pea Ridge His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety. He can be con­tacted by e-mail at [email protected]­tury tel.net, or call 621-1621.

It is more blessed to give than to re­ceive. Acts 20:35

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