Santa…we’ve all heard about him.  The jolly old man in a red suit and a beard as white as snow.  He flies trough the air on his sleigh delivering presents and spreading joy to children all over the world on Christmas Eve.

But who is Santa Claus? Where did he come from? More importantly, what can he teach us?

I did a little research to try to find out.

A very long time ago in a place near what is now Turkey, there was a boy named Nicholas whose parents were extremely wealthy. When they died, he inherited all of their money.  Rather than spend it on himself, he spent the rest of his life helping others and giving gifts to those less fortunate.  One story I read tells of a man who had 3 daughters who wanted to get married.  The man was very poor and didn’t have the money to pay the traditional dowry that was given to the groom before the wedding.  Supposedly one night, Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the poor man’s chimney.  Rather than dropping into the fire, the bag landed inside a stocking that had been hung up to dry in front of the fire.

(Maybe this is where the idea of hanging stockings comes from?)

From there the story of St. Nicholas spread through the world taking on a life of its own. In the Netherlands he was known as “Sinterklaas,” which eventually turned into Santa Claus.   During the 19th century he was reinvented as more like the myth we know today.

On Friday, December 8th, our local Santa came to the main branch of the credit union and visited with the children who stopped by. For each one he had a story about one of his elves or something funny that a reindeer had done.

I’m no expert on the history of the jolly old elf, but after doing a little research I’ve discovered that there is one common theme that surrounds Santa. Both St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are men who are known for their generosity towards others. We are all Santa Claus.  Or we have the potential to be. When we think of others and give selflessly to those in need, we are carrying on the spirit of St. Nicholas and Santa Claus.

This holiday season, I challenge you to be a Santa.  To do something for someone else.  Even if it seems like a small thing to you, it could mean the world to someone else.