I spent my Christmas eve’s like most children around the world waiting for this magnificent man with his white beard and his decorative suit. A man that would arrive with a sleigh of gifts driven by a team of reindeer. So many of those holiday nights convinced I did hear those jingle bells.
The man with a sack is called by many names. Pere Noel, Papai Noel, Viejo Pascuero, Old Man Christmas, Dun Che Lao Ren, Kerstman, Joulupukki, Weihnachtsmann, Christmas Man, Kanakaloka, Mikulas, St. Nicholas, Babbo natale, Hoteiosho, Julenissen, Swiety Mikolaj, Ded Moroz, Jultomten, Grandfather Frost, Father Christmas are all one in the same.
Similar to or often times compared to Saint Nick is Odin and his great hunting party. The children leave straw in their boots and shoes near the fire-place for Odin’s flying horse Sleipnir. In exchange Odin replaces the eaten straw with gifts and candy. Odin’s one horse has eight legs somewhat like Santa’s eight reindeer.
My brother and I had stockings to hang although we did not have a chimney to hang them by with care. We did have a wood burning stove but were not permitted to hang anything even close to it. We hung our empty stockings on the wall and sometimes at the foot of our beds. When we were older, gifts were wrapped and filled the stockings several days before Christmas only to build the excitement and anticipation.
On January 6th in celebration of Three Kings Day, children leave out a boot or shoe to be filled with gifts and candy. Three Kings Day is twelve days after Christmas and viewed by some as the end of the Christmas season.
I had a friend that received a second round of gifts on New Year’s Eve. She always told me that Santa stopped on his way back to the North Pole. I was simply amazed and when I told my parents, they were outraged.
The ultimate message about a man that gives us gifts, I think is meant to share the meaning of what Christmas really brings. What does this holiday bring? The gift of love? The gift of light? During our darkest days and nights we put up lights and begin celebrating what is yet to come. The light of the world.
We wait. We yearn. We want, and we find ourselves counting the days… Not that we are waiting to receive Oprah’s favorite things, even so we are waiting to receive something! There is an announcement, there is a presence, there is a spirit that truly fills the heart when it is open.
When we are children we are so receptive and we receive well. As children we hang our stockings without being told. We gladly gather the straw to feed Odin’s horse. We find our best boot to set by our door. No one has to convince us as children to believe. By the time we have reached adulthood we have allowed ourselves to be so conditioned against this type of hope, this type of belief, that we make it too difficult to receive. A gift could be right in front of us and we might not even know it. We would know if we practiced more belief. Gifts do not need to be tangible to truly be gifts. Have we stopped realizing that?
There is light and love in believing. I have always wanted to believe. It will surely be a sad day if that desire to believe should fade…Be he Saint Nicolas, Papa Noel, Kris Kringle or Father Christmas, the man has always impressed me no doubt. Every year without fail bringing me my heart’s desire right to my home and leaving it under my tree. Yes, I have always loved St. Nick and even as an adult I have come to know even more that to spread that kind of magic in a world such as this….well….only a saint can do that.