My first memory of Santa was the Coke Santa. Maybe that is why now I stress the historical Santa instead of the commerical one. Our long-held tradition for Christmas Eve is to give recognition to the historical origins of the holiday in two ways: 1) attending a Christmas Eve church service, and 2) the recitation of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
An old retablo icon of St. Nicholas is one of my most cherished decorations and nearby is a little collection of Santa Clauses that now, in Santa Fe, are clustered under a collection of New Mexico Spanish Colonial retablos and santos. St. Nicholas was a monk living in Turkey in the 3rd century and his charitable selfless works led to him being named a saint and he became the most popular saint in Europe, and is known as the saint of children and sailors.
Santa caught on big-time in America when Clement Clarke Moore published a poem December 23, 1932 - now known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. He had written this for his daughters and it was originally titled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.”
Trying to tamp down the idea of Santa Claus as the Saint of All Things Commercial is a swim-against-the-tide effort in our culture. Still, I try. Winter solstice-turned Catholic Church holiday, the idea of God's gifts and our gifts to one another.... well. The message gets muddled. Sitting out is a Charlie Carillo (Santa Fe's most famous santero) creche scene along with a nativity scene by a Santa Clara potter. It is art, history and religion, culture and traditions, family and friends and a season to celebrate these things as we share them together. Happy Holidays!