By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

“I really am Santa Claus,” he said. “Call me St. Nicholas or St. Nick if you like.

“Never,” he added with a twinkle, “call me Old Nick. He’s quite a different fellow.”

There he sat in his ermine-trimmed crimson suit and stocking cap, which by trick of the soft December light did have some resemblance to a bishop’s robes and miter. In spite of the snow-white beard, he looked startlingly hale for a man born in the fourth century. Truth to tell, he appeared to be in the prime of life.

“I was born in Lycia,” he said, “which would be part of what today you call Turkey. I entered the priesthood and eventually became bishop of Myra. After I died, people decided I was a saint, probably because I had given a few trinkets away during my life. I suppose that’s why I was picked for this job, and it’s wonderful.

“I am a saint, of course, but that’s not so big a thing,” he added modestly. “There are many of us in heaven. As a matter of fact, many boys and girls I visit will, in God’s good time, become saints themselves.”

As for living at the North Pole with a group of elves, “I would prefer not to give my exact address,” he hedged. “I’m a busy man and there would be too much company.”

“Yes,” he admitted, “I do visit all good boys and girls every Christmastide, but it’s a bit more complicated. Most of you celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, others on Jan. 6. That’s also the Epiphany, the day my friends Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar gave their gifts to the Christ Child.

“Personally,” he said, “I prefer to give the gifts on Christmas. After all, it is a birthday we are celebrating.”

There is still the problem of how one person can visit so many houses with gifts for all those children in such a short time.

“Actually,” Santa explained, “many of those gifts you see under the tree are from moms and dads, grandparents, relatives and friends. Some are from me, of course, especially those for the poorest children, but I like to think of myself as a motivator; I encourage others by example.”

Santa doesn’t agree with those who think the gift business overwhelms the true meaning of Christmas. “For some, it’s just a chance to make a dollar,” he said. “But you can’t frustrate the will of God. Whether you wish it or not, any instrument will reflect His honor and glory. We give gifts to others as a symbol of those gifts we would like to give to the Child Jesus.

“The Holy Infant, after all, has everything, so you can only give Him your mind, your heart, your soul and your love. He explained it quite clearly for us in the Gospels: ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ That doesn’t just mean children; it is the poor, the elderly, the forgotten, everybody.”

How does Santa spend his own Christmas?

“To begin with I celebrate a vigil Mass,” he said. “Remember, I am a bishop. Then, after my rounds to all the girls and boys, I like to go back to where it all began – Bethlehem. I go up into the shepherds’ field and look down upon the town, remembering how Mary and Joseph once told me it truly was. By the way, it wasn’t much different than the lovely traditions you learned as a child.

“Then I meditate upon my rosary. It always happens just about the time I get to the third joyful mystery. The magnificent singing begins. I can hear the angels now: ‘Glory to God on high; peace to His people on earth.'”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.