Who was the Real Father Christmas and why did he give presents?
Children worldwide know the wonder of waking up on Christmas morning to find a host of presents wrapped up and ready for them to open, but where did this tradition begin?
It all began with a rich Christian called Nicholas, who was born in AD c.280, in Patara, on the south coast of modern-day Turkey. Nicholas was brought up as a Christian in a pagan world and his homeland was under the control of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (285-305).
Anti-Christian edicts made it a dangerous time for Christians and Nicholas’ faith had to be hidden. It was a culture that thrived on violence, sacrifice and gladiatorial sports where many Christians were killed for their faith. But Nicholas believed there was a better way to live, showing kindness to strangers instead of hate.
As a young boy, Nicholas became an orphan when his parents died of a plague and a substantial inheritance was bequeathed to him, and he gained prominence within society. As a wealthy Christian, he felt called by God to help the poor by doing good deeds and he followed the teaching of Jesus to keep his giving a secret.
When you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly– Matthew 6:3-4
According to tradition, a young Nicholas heard of the plight of a poor father with three daughters. The impoverished dad could not afford a dowry for them and he feared prostitution was their future. Therefore, over the next few nights Nicholas decided to help, but didn’t want anyone to know he was the giver, therefore, he threw a bag of gold into their window and ran away. On one occasion, one of these bags was said to have landed in one girl’s stocking, which was hung up to dry.
As Nicholas dwelt on their poverty, he felt he had not been generous enough and so he returned, and on the third night, the girl’s father lay in wait for the generous mysterious donor. As Nicholas threw the third bag of gold into the window, the father ran to thank him.
This act of kindness sowed the seed of the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas and placing them in a stocking. It created the legend of Saint Nicholas, which evolved into old Saint Nick, Santa and Father Christmas, who secretly gives presents to children. Then, as Western culture became more secular, advertisers changed his clothing to red and used the story to sell more products.
The real Nicholas followed the example of God the Father, who gave His Son to mankind. At this time of year, we celebrate the greatest gift of Christmas, the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life– John 3:16