Hollis, this question was first answered in print by the editor of the New York Sun responding to a young girl named Virginia in 1897. I am told that his answer is the most reprinted article in the English speaking world.
Here is my effort at answering this very important question. The roots of Santa Claus are found in Turkey. Ancient writings indicate that Nicholas of Myra, was about 5 feet tall and slight of build, no “bowl full of jelly” for his young belly. He was a Cardinal in the early Church and, although not round, he did wear flowing red robes and sported a full white beard. However, what made Nicholas a model for our Christmas icon of goodwill and cheer was not his appearance. It was his compassion and seemingly limitless generosity that inspired the legend known around the world.
Nicholas learned faith in God from his parents and internalized these two main Biblical truths found in Matthew 22: 37-39; “to love God with all of your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Because of his gentleness, compassion, and love, and the fact that he carried a bag of candy and gifts everywhere he went, he was always surrounded by children of all ages. As he shared these presents he would say, “Jesus loves the little children and He loves you.” St. Nicholas would be very happy to know that the Biblical lessons of selfless love and generous giving are still being taught. And that children around the World continue to be made to feel especially loved on the day celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
So yes, Hollis, there is a real Santa Claus. Like Jesus, he is alive and well in your heart and mine and in the lives of people of goodwill everywhere. Join us for our 6 Christmas Eve services this week at Epworth United Methodist Church. Get all the details at epworth.com.