Bishop Jeffrey Lee of the diocese of Chicago will welcome young people to St. James Cathedral in downtown Chicago on Sunday, December 14 for an afternoon of "discovering the truth about Santa Claus." The event is part of festivities surrounding the offering of an exhibit on the life of St. Nicholas which is open to the public through January 4.
The exhibit includes a collection of art, icons, symbols, toys, statues and other objects owned by the St. Nicholas Center of Holland, Michigan, founded by Carol Myers. The traveling exhibit, now making its Chicago debut, includes items from Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United States of America.
The Rev. Canon James Rosenthal, president of the St. Nicholas Society in London, communications director for the Anglican Communion and former communications director for the Diocese of Chicago, said the collection is "museum quality and most enjoyable."
Rosenthal has contributed information and photographs to the St. Nicholas Center's virtual museum, a website, which is visited more than one million times each year.
"The web site coming to life is a dream come true," said Rosenthal. "My hope is that many will see the value of the saint behind Santa Claus, realizing the essence of who and what he represents."
The exhibit explores the life of Nicholas, born about AD 260 in Patara, in what is now Turkey. He was Bishop of Myra until his death, December 6, AD 342, which is celebrated as St. Nicholas Day in many parts of the world. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and sailors, and is closely associated with Greece, Italy, Russia and the Netherlands. The exhibit looks at the stories and legends that have been passed from generation to generation, and his place within faith traditions and international customs. In the center of the exhibit are interactive stations where children can craft a paper miter, solve a St. Nicholas and Santa Claus puzzle, and create rubbings from plates depicting the life of St. Nicholas.
The December 14 event will include small group sessions with Lee, drama, music and a special St. Nicholas Evensong.
"St. Nicholas shows us that the real person behind Santa Claus exemplifies the true spirit of generosity and care for those in need," said Myers. "He, like all saints, is a model for living."