Chesterton on Santa Claus

Chesterton on Santa Claus December 25, 2014

From Commonweal in 1935: G. K. Chesterton’s Santa Claus and Science. One point he makes:

[D]o our contemporaries really know even the little that there is to know about the roots, or possible origins, of such romances of popular religion?I myself know very little; but a really complete monograph on Santa Claus might raise some very interesting questions. For instance, Saint Nicholas of Bari is represented in a well known Italian picture of the later Middle Ages, not only as performing the duty of a gift-bringer, but ,s actually doing it by the methods of a burglar. He is represented as climbing up the grille or lattice of a house, solely in order to drop little bags of gold among the members of a poor family, consisting of an aged man and three beautiful daughters who had no money for their wedding dowries.

That is another question for our contemporaries: why were celibate saints so frightfully keen on getting other people married? But anyhow, I give this only as an example out of a hundred, which might well be followed up if only grown-up people could be induced to take Santa Claus seriously. It looks as if it might be the root of the legend. To see a saint climbing up the front of our house would seem to most of us as odd as seeing a saint climbing down our chimney. Very probably neither of the things happened; but it might be worth while even for scientific critics to find out what actually did happen.

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