Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Why Santa Looks Like He Does

  I am continually asked about Santa Claus.  Should parents perpetuate the myth, or indulge the fantasy. 

I want to say that I still support the idea of Santa, not as the one to whom we appeal for our wants and needs, but representative of the idea of nameless giving.  Never would I want him equated with, nor substituted for the God of Glory who gave His precious Son to redeem mankind.  But that was not an anonymous gift.  That gift was publicly foretold, boldly announced, and universally proclaimed.

But where does our current notion of Santa Claus come from in our land.  Here is the amazing story of one of Christmas' most endearing rhymes which has forever formed our vision of the Jolly Elf.  I do not know the source of the following article, but I have confirmed the factual information.

Dr. Clement C. Moore was the distinguished professor of Greek and Hebrew at General Theological Seminary in New York City. America was less than 50 years old. Moore's father, a famous Episcopal bishop, administered the first oath of office to President George Washington. He also comforted Alexander Hamilton as he lay dying from a bullet wound inflicted by Aaron Burr. Dr. C.C. Moore, however, would not be remembered for his father's meritorious accomplishments, nor for his own scholarly writings...and there were many. His greatest legacy would be a short, rhyming composition penned in less than one hour on Christmas Eve, 1822. Here is the amazing story: 

Mrs. Moore had been packing Christmas baskets for poor families when she realized she was one turkey short! "Clement," she asked in an urgent tone, "will you run down to the market for me? I need a few more items." With the snow falling briskly and the spirit of Christmas in the air, off he went. Upon returning home, Moore met his Dutch caretaker, Jan Duychinck, a short stubby man with a bowed mouth, a big red nose, two perfectly placed dimples, and a pipe clenched between his teeth, causing the smoke to encircle his head. The moon's bright light shone upon the blanket of newly fallen snow. These two men, both possessing child-like hearts, talked about Christmas, particularly the Dutch customs. The caretaker shared with Dr. Moore the fascinating story of Saint Nicholas. He mentioned how Hollanders pulled a sleigh-driven statue of the saint along a parade route. The children line the street anxiously awaiting its arrival. Someone dressed in red and white, like the saint, walked alongside passing out gifts. Dr. Moore could hardly wait to get into the house, grab his quill pen, and begin writing those familiar words:
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
When Moore began describing the old saint, he drew a word picture of his Dutch caretaker:
His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
From Dr. Clement C. Moore's poetic portrayal of Saint Nicholas, we get our present-day picture of Santa.

1 comment:

Don Stewart said...

Mike, I'd never heard the story of "Twas the Night Before Christmas." I should have, I know, but I don't remember ever having heard the explanation you gave. Thanks for sharing. I'm with you. Santa never has been in contention to replace "God's indescribable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15); but he has personified the spirit of giving that should be foundational to our faith. Have a wonderful Christmas. While you do, WALK TALL FOR JESUS.