Jesus and not Santa Claus: The Focus of Christmas

December 25, 2013

This is a familiar story in Christian circle: In the Church of a particular village it was a local tradition that during Christmas, the nativity scene was built by the children. A nativity scene is a depiction of the birth of Jesus with figures of different characters like Infant Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph, shepherds, kings, angels, animals etc.  It is called as a crib.  While placing the figures in the crib the figure of the Child Jesus accidentally fell and shattered into pieces. For Children, Christmas was absolutely inconceivable without the statue of babe Jesus. Suddenly, one child ran home, returned with excitement bringing a figure of Santa Claus which was about the size of the broken figure of Jesus. Children laid Santa Claus in place of Babe Jesus covered with straw. The fact that there was no Jesus in the nativity scene was noticed by all who saw the crib. People went back sad.  They felt the absence of Jesus…. Everybody asked him/herself how the children could possibly have come up with the absurd idea of replacing Jesus by Santa Claus!

Three consecutive years I had a privilege of teaching around 40-50 children about 10 to fifteen Christmas carols in one of the prestigious schools in Bangalore.  Children sang these carols with gusto and enthusiasm.   Every time when I asked these children what they like the most of Christmas the answer was unanimous. They screamed: ‘Santa Claus, Santa Claus’. I was startled!

‘We are still in November, and my 10 year old son  asked’, said the father, a friend of mine, “dad what will you keep  underneath the  Christmas tree this year?” The Christmas tree has become a part of Christmas. In homes all across the world we will find a Christmas tree with presents underneath.  While decorating and enjoying a Christmas tree, children are told today, Santa Claus watches them all the time! He brings them gifts! He knows whether they are good or bad!  He rewards them if they are good!  Some of us I am sure would again listen to this song during Christmas “Everyone is waiting for the man with the bag”.  He is Santa Claus.  He knows everything.  He has magical powers and can make us happy and our dreams come true.  He’ll be here with the answer to prayers that you made through the year.

Santa Claus whom I see in Christmas season is someone in costume.  An overweight old man with big belly and grey beard who dresses himself/herself  red suite with white trim and a matching cap.  The gifts he brings in his bag are handful of sweets. He is a show-piece of entertainment.  He comes and goes. We all of us can fit into his shoes wearing costumes and mask on of Santa Claus.  But the  joy of Christmas is inseparably bound with the fact of God becoming human person.  Jesus the Word of God, Wisdom of God and Son of God became man, came to this world to dwell among us to save us and not to abandon us.  As human person, He came into this world not wearing costumes of man and mask on. He became real tangible flesh.  This is the mystery of Christmas – mystery of Incarnation.

In Hindu Dharma the term used for the incarnation is ‘avatara’. The Sanskrit word "avatar" literally means "descent of God. According  Hindu conception, god actually appears on this earth in various forms to fulfill certain specific purposes.  The Bhagavad-Gita says that God punishes the wicked, protects the good and establishes dharma.   Hindu belief proclaims that God assumes a normal form (either human or animal), but, even in that form, his transcendental power becomes unmistakably manifest.  Vaishanvism speaks of Dashavataras, the ten avataras of Vishnu in the form of fish, tortoise, boar, man-lion, dwarf, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Budddha and the tenth Kalki which is yet to come…

Swami Shivananda, one of Ramakrishna's disciples, said: "If God does not come down as a human being, how will human beings love him? That is why He comes to human beings as a human being.  People can love Him as a father, mother, brother and friend”. "Incarnation" means: ‘God becomes man’.  This short sentence is filled with meaning. It expresses the conviction that God has made Himself known fully, specifically and personally, by taking our human nature into himself, by coming amongst us as a particular man, without in any way ceasing to be the eternal and infinite God. St. Augustine avers, “Not man, who can be seen, should be followed, but God, who cannot be seen. So then, that we might be shown one who would be both seen and followed, God became man.”  Christmas is the humility of God to shun human pride which is the greatest stumbling block to cling to Him. In order that weakness [human person]  might become strong, strength [God] became weak.

Christmas says much about the goodness and love of God. The Bible says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” (Jn 3:16).  It is the world of all mankind, people of every race, tribe, tongue and language, regardless of social and economic conditions.  In His goodness God just loves this world and wants  to save us. He comes in search of us.  Jesus, then rightly  is the reason for the season. He is the focus of Christmas. Nothing can take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ and nobody can usurp His place.  Santa is just a commercialized symbol of Christmas, symbol of entertainment, fun,  proliferate spending and extravagant gifts. The Babe of Bethlehem  in the cradle is not interchangeable with Santa Claus. That is why people in the village had a keen sense and at least at this point, they grasped the true value of Jesus.  His presence, His peace and love is precious and valuable gifts. The only attitude one needs today is to worship and adore this Jesus Christ as Lord and God to make Christmas meaningful and live and spread His message of peace.


Fr Paul Melwyn Archives:



By Fr Paul Melwyn, Pamedi, Capuchin
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Comment on this article

  • Dr. Sudhama Ananda, Mangalore/New Jersey, USA

    Sun, Dec 29 2013

    The word X' Mas has a meaning. In Greek language (original texts of the New Testament are written in Greek) the first letter for Christ is X (Christos). Hence X is used as an abbreviation for CHRIST.

  • Deepa K, Mangalore

    Sat, Dec 28 2013

    Thank you father for the message....It's true that children should be taught the right meaning of Christmas rather than giving importance to Santa...

  • A. S. Mathew, U.S.A.

    Fri, Dec 27 2013

    Great article: Ramakrishna Mission's prominent Swami Vivekanada's statements about JESUS and his faith in JESUS will touch our hearts very deeply. It is very heartbreaking to see, how terrible the birth of JESUS CHRIST was transformed as a mere fun time and for strict business gains. 40% of the retail business of the year in U.S. is generated during the Christmas time. See the amount spent in millions for liquor? If that money was spent to feed the hungry of the world, JESUS could have been very happy.
    JESUS went to the Temple and saw the commercialism there, and got mad at them and threw them away from turning the House of worship as a commercial center. JESUS is happy for us to eat food-get clothed and celebrate, but now it seems like JESUS is nowhere in the Christmas, but the name is simply used.

  • manu, mangalore

    Fri, Dec 27 2013

    it is truly the focus on Christmas is CHRIST himself. v hav other days to focus on other things. if v focus more on Santa Claus, it wil b 'Santamas' and not 'Christmas'. We hav to teach the children now, so that they hav the right understanding at the right time.

  • haneef, mali

    Thu, Dec 26 2013

    Xmas n Santa has no connection according to me, Xmas should be remembered to remind and to reform ourselves teachings of Jesus son of beloved Virgin Mary. Now a days people misunderstood the word happiness, fun is not happiness, happiness is peaceful life and hereafter.

  • Charlotte, Mangalore

    Thu, Dec 26 2013

    Thank you Fr. Melwyn for the thought provoking article. It's high time we realised this grim reality. How very true that today the focus is mainly on Santa right from Advent. Some people here have argued that without Santa there is no fun, especially for children. Sadly however, Santa having taken centre-stage, where is the focus on JESUS ? The significance & true meaning of Christmas & our LORD's birth, as announced by the Angels to the shepherds, saying "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOUR, which is Christ the LORD" is lost in all the fun & frolic. Also an angel Gabriel's message to Mary that "JESUS - He shall be GREAT and shall be called the Son of God and of HIS kingdom there shall be no end". With Santa overshadows JESUS in our celebrations right from the start, we have involuntarily given space to Santa & made him great, making Satan happy. Hope we will take steps to focus on JESUS first in our celebrations in the future, especially keeping our children in mind so that they do not lose the true purpose & essence of JESUS' birth.

  • Anand, Mumbai

    Thu, Dec 26 2013

    With all respects to the view of Fr. Paul Mellwyn, I am writing the following.

    Undoubtedly Jesus must be focused during Xmas. However, ignoring Santa may not bring the glory to Xmas.

    I believe Santa is a symbol of joy for all specifically kids. Xmas is celebrated mostly by people dressing like Santa and giving gifts.

    Santa makes Xmas unique like how crackers make Diwali unique. Let us not take away the festive mood by arguing whether Jesus or Santa to be focused. Let us all enjoy the season by celebrating the festival together.

  • ad, mangloor

    Thu, Dec 26 2013

    For several of the writings on santa and Christmas on daijiworld I have been commenting to focus on christmas and not santaclaus and material things. But they have been lost or not published. However, this article touches on my concerns that we Indians are focusing on party culture on Santa dressings.
    Its time e learn to keep CHRIST in CHRISTMAS. and not SANTACLAUS.

    Thank you Fr. Peter Melwyn for expressing your thoughts. I am grateful to you. I am a layman but you are a messenger of divinity.

  • Blaan Mendonca, USA

    Thu, Dec 26 2013

    Fr Paul Melwyn

    The birth of Jesus is Christmas. But Santa Claus is part of Christmas. Christmas is giving and sharing that brings Joy and happiness in the name of Jesus. When we see these children happy and joyful it brings happiness in the family and around the world. A Nativity scene represents the birth of Jesus Christ. We celebrate birth of Jesus Christ at the same time we have to understand that small children do not understand the mysteries, but only they understand through stories. So during the time of Christmas when children are given gifts and candies in the name of Jesus they feel great and bring Joy, happiness and peace in their hearts and minds, because after all they are children.

    If there was no Santa Claus, then what joy the children will have. Children understand about the mysteries of Jesus Christ when they are adult, matured and have the ability to know. My question to Fr Paul Melwyn when you were a child whom did you prefer: Jesus or Santa Claus? Santa Claus brings gifts and candies to the children which is real when they are young and tender, but for children Jesus is sleeping in a manger in a crib of a Nativity scene, so what do you understand Fr Paul Melwyn when you are a child. Now you are an matured and learned adult. You have studied so many years in the seminary about Jesus Christ and that is why you understand about the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas. The Children do not understand. So let them enjoy the joy of Christmas through Santa Claus.

  • Ethan Avidhan hans, Florida\ mangalore

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Coca Cola has hijacked Christmas in the form of Santa Claus !

  • Maxim, Mangalore

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    It is Christmas, not x'mas - 'x' has no meaning. Wish you a merry Christmas

  • Naina, Mangalore /USA

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Jesus is the reason for this Season.
    Merry Christmas!!!!

  • Vincent Rodrigues, Katapadi/Bangalore

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Christmas is the great festival for christians because it is the Birthday of Christ.We need to focus Christ on X'mas and not Santa Claus.I fully agree with this.Thanq.

  • Declan, Mumbai

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Commercialization of Christmas is primarily responsible for shifting the focus from Lord Jesus's birth to Santa Claus, Christmas Tree, Silver Bells, Holly etc.

    This was started by the western world and the eastern world just followed.

    We need to take only the good from the west and ignore the rest and not just follow them blindly.

  • Richie, Mangalore

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    How true to realise Jesus himself is missing from Christmas ? The invasion of santa claus, tree and a variety of other distractions must be making satan dance with joy.
    Jesus also said , No one can come to the father except through me. We need people who do not compromise this word and do not lead the people on the broader path , pleasing the world. The bible is very clear about it and the results of it.

  • Rita, Mangalore

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Congrats, timely article there is this tendency to give more importance to outer celebrations like santa, tree etc Jesus is the center He is Emmanuel-God with us, Merry Christmas to all

  • vidyarthi menezes, mumbai

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    People are not so ignorant that they focus on Santa at Christmas. Deep down they know that it is the birth of Jesus,God becoming man celebrated at Christmas.Santa Claus is part of the celebration. we can have Christmas without the Santa !Still focus is on Jesus but not on Santa

  • Ajith, Mangalore

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    A perfect statement. Jesus is the creation of God. Santa is the creation of corporate houses. This stupid world just forgets this plain truth.

  • Peter, Brahmavar

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Santa Claus is the legend story of St. Nicholos. Focusing too much on Santa Claus and Jesus in second place against the first commandment. When the children grow they realize the truth but it depends on parents faith. Same time this not only the duty of religious fathers but all parents to teach the children who the Jesus is.Let all children sing Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth instead of singing all the time Santa Claus is coming.

  • Vicky D, Dubai

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    We should give some credit to Santa Claus for universal celebration of Christmas. Lord Jesus Christ is helping us to spread unity, happiness & celebration through the smiles & gifts of Santa Claus who is universally accepted. Merry Christmas..

  • Wilfy, Kinnigoly/Abu Dhabi

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Thank you father for a nice timely article. A realistic approach to Christmas. Let's have Christ filled Christmas.

    Some are using X in place of Christmas. X means unknown factor in maths. Jesus is not unknown factor. He is the God who lived with us and it's proved. Let's have Christ in our Christmas.

  • J. P, M'lore/USA

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Loved this article, Fr. Paul. You have focused the true meaning of Christmas. It is so essential in this modern world to emphasize the importance of baby Jesus Christ born in a manger than to follow what the world follows..i.e.the traditions, which will not lead us to live a God pleasing life and follow what the bible teaches. Hats off to you.
    Wish you Merry Christ,mas.

  • William, Bantwal

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Thank Father for the message, Christmas Greetings and Good wishes. May Jesus bless us all. Wish you all Happy Christmas and special blessings!!!

  • EP, Mangalore

    Wed, Dec 25 2013

    Excellent article Fr.Paul. Merry Christmas, God bless you mightily on this day. In fact, priests should be the shepherds to guide their flocks to the right way. The Word of God clearly states, 'My people are perishing due to lack of wisdom.' Also Word of God says, 'By reading the Word of God, we can obtain the wisdom'. Also it states, 'Nothing to be added or removed from the Word of God'.

    God is the Creator of Heaven and Earth and he doesn't need our Candles or Flowers. He is eagerly waiting for our Praise and Worship by Truth, Heart & Spirit.

    We Catholics celebrate the Christmas by New Dress, Pork, Liquor, Kuswar and enjoy the day, Truly a Meaningless Celebration. Only we bless the Tailor, Pork Seller, Owners of Wine Shops and Bakeries by the name of our God.

    Let everyone pray this day that God give wisdom to our community to live a True Christian life based on the Word of God and not the Tradition!

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