One of my all-time favorite Christmas images is the Kneeling Santa. I love it because it’s a much-needed reminder of just who Santa was—St. Nicholas, a 4th Century Bishop of Myra (present-day Turkey). Born into an affluent family, Nicholas was never attached to his wealth but gave generously to the poor, perhaps the most noted example being the time he saved three sisters from being sold into slavery by their destitute father who did not have the money needed for their wedding dowries. Nicholas went to their home and secretly left bags of money on three consecutive nights, enough for the sisters’ dowries, enough to save them from enslavement. Later in Nicholas’ life, he was imprisoned by the Emperor Diocletian who persecuted Christians. Since the 11th Century, his remains have been carefully preserved at the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy.
In the 1950’s scientific experiments were conducted on the remains by anatomy professor Luigi Martino who reported from his findings that the person in question was an older man, 6 foot 5 inches tall, and very likely someone who had spent time in a damp jail, judging from the condition of the bones. In more recent years, Francesco Introna, professor of forensic pathology, did extensive studies on the skull and with the help of facial anthropologist, Dr. Caroline Wilkinson, fashioned a replica of what the person’s face would have looked it. Amazingly, it was very similar to traditional images of St. Nicholas done by iconographers. Introna and Wilkinson also discovered that the man under study had suffered a broken nose, which lined up with the historical data which indicated St. Nicholas had been tortured while in prison under Diocletian. (Information gleaned from “Better than Santa Claus” by Louise Perrotta; The Word Among Us; Advent 2008).
Whatever the case, it is certain that St. Nicholas was a devout Christian, that he lived and died for Christ, and that had he been given the chance to be in the manger of Bethlehem, he undoubtedly would have knelt in love and adoration for the Christ Child. Hence, my deep love for this image.
I bought this small statue recently, photographed the kneeling Santa adoring the Christ Child, and with PhotoShop came up with this rendition. Even Santa would agree that Jesus truly IS the reason for the season; it is His birthday, and He deserves our remembrance on His day just as any of us do on our date of birth. Merry Christmas to all!