Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Sunday, December 5, 2010


"Every year, Christian parents face a dilemma: what to do about Santa Claus. He's everywhere, that 'jolly old elf,' hawking tires, toys, and Playboy magazine, sitting in shopping malls taking orders for the latest batteries-not-included whizbang. Although movies about him portray him as someone concerned about the left-out child, his hymnography (think about the words to Santa Claus Is Coming to Town! 'You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry...') carries a theology of vengeful justice ...

"A right Jolly Old Elf" by Thomas Nast 
As a matter of fact, this Santa Claus is not associated with Christ. He may be appropriate to affluent Victorian Christmases with huge candle-laden Christmas trees and middle-class American living rooms (with or without chimneys) where a snack awaits near the comfy chair. But in a stable with the Infant Jesus? They're from different worlds.

Another dilemma that parents may find more immediately painful is that every year brings a new decision—whether to maintain the lie of Santa's existence or to tell children the truth, at the risk of imitating that bah-humbugging (and also fictional) Christmas character, Scrooge...

There is an answer, though: Saint Nicholas, the real Saint Nicholas, a bishop of Myra in Lycea, who died around AD 350." -from st.nicholascenter.org (quotes from an article "Will the real Santa Please Stand? Inviting St. Nicholas Into Our Christmas", by Daria Gray and Jan Bear.  To read it in its entirety click here.)

Vintage Italian Postcard of St. Nicolaus
(Image courtesy of St. Nicholas Center)
Mosaic Icon of St. Nicholas
(Image courtesy of St. Nicholas Center)

Tomorrow, December 6th, is St. Nicholas Day and is celebrated all around the Christian world.  Have you ever wondered how the tradition of St. Nicholas and stockings started?  There are several good children's books on the subject, which I'd like to highlight today and tomorrow.  And I'd also like to direct you to a wonderful website that has fun activities that you can do at home with your children for St. Nicholas Day and way more information than I can put in this post!

Santa, Are You For Real? by Harold Myra.  This book was originally published in 1977, illustrated by Dwight Walles.  My father worked for Thomas Nelson Publishers and I remember when he brought it home and we read for the first time about the "real Santa".  It was republished in 1997, this time with illustrations by Jane Kurisu.
Convinced that Santa does not exist, a little boy (Todd) who's been teased by his friends at school, questions his father.   His dad gently relates the story of a young Nicholas, born less than 300 years after Christ,  who did good deeds in secret for the poor and grew up to become the bishop of Myra.  "After he died people called him a saint, because that's what someone is who loves God so much."  
The little boy decides to give gifts to his family and be like St. Nicholas.  I love the ending, which doesn't debunk the tradition of Santa:
"So they all sat around and they talked half the night,
while Todd thought he saw, in the snow and moonlight, 
a bright-eyed St. Nicholas with his sack, looking in, 
and wide 'cross his face, a jolly old grin."

I hope you'll visit the Saint Nicholas Center web pages for kids.

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