Even though it’s questionable how much of it is true, I still love the stories about the real St. Nicholas. From Fred Sanders:
St. Nicholas of Myra, a bishop in what we now call Turkey, lived in the fourth century. He must have been quite a guy, because while we have pretty much no reliable documents about him from his own time period, he became very popular in peoples’ memories in later centuries. He’s still a fun and inspiring figure to learn about. He was remembered for acts of generosity (tossing gold in a window to rescue three girls from lives of prostitution), miracles (including flying around like a superhero centuries after his death to rescue storm-tossed ships at sea), and good theology. The best story about him is that he went to the council of Nicaea in 325 and became so incensed with the heresies of Arius that he broke up the good order of the council by crossing the room and slapping Arius in the face. From there the story gets pretty chaotic: he may have been expelled for disorderly conduct, and Jesus and Mary may have appeared in a vision to cause the council to re-admit him. Okay, I admit I doubt most of that, and if it comes down to hard evidence, we can’t even prove that Nicholas of Myra was at Nicaea because his name’s not on the list of attendees. But after all these years of seeing Santa Claus as a seasonal rival to Jesus Christ, it sure is refreshing to think of him instead as a theological advocate of the central Christian doctrine which we remember at Christmas time, the incarnation of the Son of God.
Santa Claus: Defender of orthodox nicene trinitarian theology. It’s an inspiring thought for the Christmas season, and it makes it possible for us to sing all those Santa songs with newly recovered religious meaning: …
He then proceeds to rewrite the Santa-themed Christmas songs, which you should now read. I particularly recommend “Back at Nicaea (to the tune of ‘Up on the Housetop’).”