Everybody knows there’s a big difference between Jesus and Santa Claus, right?
Jesus Christ is the reason for Christmas! His name is right in the name of the holiday.
But did you ever sit down and consider that not only are there big differences between Jesus and Santa, but there are also big similarities? Why do you suppose that is?
Many of us grew up believing in Santa Claus only to meet disappointment later when we found out he wasn’t real.
Jesus Christ is real. He is 100% God and 100% Man. There is ample historical, archaeological and Biblical evidence supporting the reality of Jesus Christ. Santa Claus is a legend based mostly on the life of Saint Nicholas, a real-life, historical follower of Jesus Christ –a man who gave generously to those in need and fulfilled the Biblical command to love your neighbor.
Let’s take a closer look and separate fact from fiction.
Jesus vs. Santa Claus
I’ve wondered why a few people seem to think Jesus and Santa are the same. They even believe that since Santa is legend, Jesus must be a legend, too.
But is this belief based on fact? Or is it just an idle belief based on a hunch, or worse?
There are many legends people seem to believe in and place a lot of hope and trust in. When you dig deeper, you find out they are based on some very flimsy assumptions.
Is Santa Claus based on flimsy assumptions? Or worse yet –is belief in Jesus Christ based on flimsy assumptions?
Jesus is Real
The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ are all historical facts with eye-witness accounts telling us in great detail –including very uncomfortable details- that speak of the genuineness of the accounts.
The amazing things he said and did, and the imperfect characters who lived their lives beside him back up the veracity of the stories.
There are thousands of manuscripts –each verifying the others- that agree about the details.
Historical accounts outside the Bible back up what it says about this great life –the life of Jesus Christ.
Not only that, but the first coming of Jesus Christ was foretold in the Old Testament up to 1500 years in advance, by many authors and at many times.
For example, we read in Isaiah 7:14 that a virgin will give birth to a child and his name will be Immanuel.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14, NIV
Immanuel means “God with us”. It’s not a name, but a title.
Again we read in Micah 5:1-2 that this child will himself be born in Bethlehem –the very place Jesus was recorded as being born in Matthew 2:1, and Luke 2:4.
Another thing we read is that the Messiah had to come from the house of Judah. He would have to be Jewish!
There are dozens more prophecies, plus Old Testament types and shadows.
They state very clearly who the Messiah would be!
Jesus fulfilled them beautifully by being born in Bethlehem and by living a perfect and sinless life, suffering death for all mankind, and rising triumphantly from the grave.
Who is Saint Nicholas?
Santa Claus was based on a real-life character named Nicholas of Myra. He lived from 280-343 A.D.
He was a kind bishop of the church in Myra (modern-day Turkey) who gave generously to people in need.
Nicholas of Myra had become orphaned when a plague swept through his town.
He received the estate of his well-to-do parents, and he used this wealth to make the lives of many other people better.
Nicholas was very well-loved for all of his kindness. He was jailed under the 8-year persecution of Christians by Roman Emperor Diocletian, but was released by Constantine- the next Roman Emperor after Diocletian.
Islam swept through Turkey hundreds of years after Saint Nicholas’ death, and the invaders began defacing the graves of the Saints who’d been buried there.
He was so well-loved that a group of Italians moved his bones to the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy where they rest now.
Or at least, many of his bones rest there. Some of his bones have apparently ended up in other places as well.
Is Santa Claus Real?
Nicholas lived out his days serving God and helping others, thereby fulfilling the words of Jesus Christ himself when he said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Nicholas was so well-loved, and his legend spread so rapidly that people everywhere wanted to claim him as their own.
He was “adopted” by cities from Russia to Germany to Italy and came to be known as Saint Nicholas or Saint Nick.
When King Vladimir of Russia converted to Christianity, he made St. Nicholas the patron saint of Russia.
Another name for jolly old Saint Nick is Kris Kringle. This originated from the German Christkindl (Christ child) and later was used as a name for Santa Claus.
The stories of Nicholas of Myra’s fine citizenship and abundant generosity were embellished over time as his legend grew.
He took on god-like traits of omniscience (knows if you’ve been good or bad), omnipotence (delivers presents to every house in the world in only one night) and omnipresence (he sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake).
Much later, he moved to the North Pole and acquired reindeer and a sleigh! Then he hired elves to make the toys, and married Mrs. Claus.
Jesus Christ, on the other hand, was reported up to 2000 years ahead of time by over 100 Old Testament prophecies and was seen and written about by eyewitnesses.
Many of the eyewitnesses to his resurrection were persecuted and martyred for sticking to their story that Jesus really did rise again from the dead.
These same witnesses went into all the world telling the story at great personal cost.
Naughty or Nice?
Another big difference between the Jesus and Santa Claus?
Consider “naughty or nice” -a term associated with Santa Claus. The legend of Santa tells us that he is always watching to see if we are nice enough.
If we are nice, we get something nice for Christmas. If we are naughty, we get a lump of coal.
How is this different from the truth of Jesus Christ?
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Translation? God loves us so much that even though we have all sinned and fallen short of his glory, he sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to experience the penalty of our “naughtiness” so that we can experience the riches of Christ for eternity.
By our naughtiness, we deserve a lump of coal. But by his love and grace, we get the fabulous riches of eternal life!
Sinterklaas vs Santa Claus
After the Reformation, most of the Protestant countries in Europe did not venerate the Catholic Saints, so the story of St. Nick wasn’t well known in western Europe.
In the Dutch language, St. Nicholas is known as Sinterklaas.
Dutch immigrants to North America took their stories of Sinterklaas with them to the new world, including New Amsterdam, which would later become known as New York City.
The stories of Santa Claus got embellished even more in America, where Santa Claus took on these superhuman qualities far beyond where Dutch culture had taken him.
Little by little, commercial artists got into the act.
Santa Claus originally dressed like a bishop, since Saint Nicholas was a church bishop, but in America, he began to look more Dutch.
He began to be depicted wearing a red Dutch cloak.
Fun fact about St. Nick: He was alive at the time of the Council of Nicaea. One story says he slapped Arian across the face for heresy. Was that our Jolly ol’ Saint Nick?
Then his white horse became reindeer when the legend was adopted in Scandinavia.
Eventually all the changes led to the Santa Claus we see today. It’s all documented in William Federer’s book: “There Really is a Santa Claus.”
How to Tell Children About Santa Claus
Children are very smart. They usually catch on to things much faster than we think.
It’s important they know the truth about Santa Claus.
He isn’t a legend like the Tooth Fairy. Santa Claus is a legend based on a real follower of the true and eternal God.
If children are told that mommy and daddy (or the Grandparents) are the real Santa and then it is explained to them that they are following Christ’s word’s “Love your neighbor as yourself” they will understand that now they also get to play Santa.
Then the real fun begins, because it’s more blessed to give than to receive.
Saint Nicholas was a real believer in Jesus Christ who was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith.
His parents left him a small fortune, and he used his worldly possessions to advance the kingdom of God.
St. Nick -since he had a good fortune, didn’t have to serve his fellow man.
He could have done many things with his wealth, but he was a believer in the living, eternal God, who chose to glorify God by serving Him and his neighbor.
Saint Nicholas set the example for us that led to Christmas gift-giving. But in doing so, he was merely reflecting the greatest gift of all:
The gift of eternal life found only in Jesus Christ.
Pagan Christmas Traditions
Many people are rightly concerned about the many Christmas traditions with pagan roots, but it’s important to put these things in the proper context.
The date of Christmas on December 25th, the use of Christmas trees, wreaths and many other elements of the Christmas tradition no longer represent pagan beliefs.
The celebration of today’s Christmas holiday has usurped the old celebration of Saturnalia -a wicked, corrupt and lurid practice of worshiping pagan gods.
A celebration of the true and living God has replaced a celebration of the false gods of the past.
Shouldn’t we celebrate a victory of truth over falsehood?
Christmas today is the most joyous and peaceful holiday on the calendar worldwide. It’s the holiday where we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the true Prince of Peace.
If the real Jolly Ol’ St. Nick were around to see it, he would be handing out as many presents as he could.
So go ahead and say “Merry Christmas” and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.