Do you believe in Santa Claus?
Regardless, we can all agree that Santa is synonymous with Christmas in popular culture.
Depicted as a portly, jolly, white-bearded man who squeezes himself down chimneys to deliver presents like toys and candy to well-behaved children and coal to all the misbehaved ones in one single night.
Santa Claus is also known as St Nicholas or Father Christmas.
As a child I was never quite drawn to the notion of Santa, especially since gifts were awarded based on 'how well you behaved' and I rarely ever did. Also Malaysia doesn't have chimneys.
As a grown up, however, I do quite prefer the idea from which Santa originated.
Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to an individual named St. Nicholas from Europe, who became the subject of many legends. He was a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it.
Orphaned at a young age and having inherited a sum of wealth, it's said that he gave it all away, travelling across the country to help the poor and the sick.
One of his best known stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Over the years, his popularity spread as the protector of children.
The history of St Nicholas has since evolved through the years, along with his name, from 'Sinterklass' (short for St Nicholas in Dutch) to a more culturally accessible portly, jolly, white bearded 'Santa Claus' we all know so well. This is the Santa we find at malls whom we can queue up for to sit on his lap and tell him what our Christmas wish is this year.
What the origins of Santa taught me
I much prefer the original idea of Santa Claus because it is a story about using what we have to help those who don't have much. Not because they were on their best behavior this year, or they have something to offer us, because let's be honest, what can someone worse off give back to us that we don't already have?
It's a story about giving simply because one can.
I know I can, because I come from a small, privileged percentage of the population that has access to what we really need. Food on the table, roof over our heads, access to quality education, a family to belong to, a well-paying job, access to healthcare and a general sense of well-being. As the year draws to a close, I cannot be more thankful for not only having what I need, but also having the means to do what I want, holidays, hobbies, even the privilege of career choices - like serving as staff for a not-for-profit organisation.
And as an organisation that's on-ground, I know for a fact that our nation as grass-root level, is facing tough times.
While I come from a position of privilege I'm reminded everyday about those who don't.
For instance, this recent case of a father of 3 was caught for stealing food and school items, because he simply didn't have enough money. While this is in no way condoning the crime, its a real reflection of desperate measures that the poor resort to take to provide for their family.
If I could ask for a Christmas wish, it would be help families like these. Families that struggle to put food on the table let alone enable children to have what they need to go to school.
We recently began a project, an idea started by GG's Founder to providing these children food, school uniforms, school bags and shoes so that their families can have peace of mind to begin the new year with hope.
Learn about how we are doing this here & how you can get involved.
Back to my story about Santa.
I like the idea of a 'Father Christmas' not being just a noun, but a verb or an action where we do just that -- go out into the community and father those who need it.
What does father in an action mean? The first few words that come to mind include to provide and protect, to love and care for.
If Christmas is really about giving, I think the greatest lesson that we can learn is to give to someone who cannot give anything back.