December 20, 2006

ASLAN in the News

ASLAN -- the International Anti-Santa Love Nicholas Society -- has been dormant for nearly 5 years. Now that we are coming back out of the chimney it is good that new friends and potential supporters have some background information. Our new website will have more, as time permits, but here is the text of a 2001 Religious News Service article, in which ASLaN was hightlighted:


Dec 22, 2001
Memo to Santa Claus: When packing your sleigh on Christmas Eve, Jim
Rosenthal would prefer that you passed him by. You need not bother with
Carol Myers' house, either. And please, if you know what's good for you,
stay away from Walter Skold's chimney.

No offense, but they would much prefer a visit by St. Nicholas.

It's a conflict as perennial as the shopping mall Santa -- what to do with
the North Pole's most famous resident on Christmas, a holiday that
celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. A small but growing band of
Christians has an answer: Dump Claus altogether and bring back the
original St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian bishop in what is now Turkey, was
known for his charity and kind heart. As the story goes, he rescued three
poor women from prostitution by slipping gold coins down their chimney --
landing in their stockings drying by the fire - - so their father could
afford a dowry for each.

The bishop of Myra became the patron saint of seafarers and pawnbrokers,
brides and children. More than 1,200 churches are named for him, dedicated
to his persecuted faith and his good works.

Along the way, the Nicholas legend split into two camps -- one holds
special devotion for the pious priest, especially among Orthodox
Christians; the other thinks of him as just another version of Santa
Claus. Walter Skold wants to change that.

As founder of the "Anti-Santa Love Nicholas Society," Skold literally
thinks Santa should be "sued for consumer and historical fraud, and exiled
to Siberia." His disdain for Santa Claus runs so deep he willingly accepts
the label of "Grinch."

"I'm more than annoyed," Skold, 41, said from his home in Brunswick,
Maine, where Santa has been banned for good. "I honestly hate what Santa
Claus has become. People hear that and they think you're anti-children,
they think you're anti-gifts, anti- commercialism. But those are side
issues. The issue is that Christ isn't getting the glory."

So seven years ago, Skold founded his "loose-knit group of kindred
spirits" while serving as a missionary in China. He concedes he hasn't
made much progress because "anyone who hears anti-Santa thinks I'm some
kind of nut."

But there is an immensely serious side to Skold's campaign, and he is not
alone. A similar, although more serious, St. Nicholas Society was formed
two years ago in London by Jim Rosenthal, press secretary for the
archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey.

Rosenthal's fledgling society has received Carey's blessing -- so much so
that Carey's wife, Eileen, presided at the annual Dec. 6 St. Nicholas Day
festival at Canterbury Cathedral. And devotion to St. Nicholas is catching
on throughout the Anglican Communion.

As Rosenthal sees him, St. Nicholas never rode a sleigh, although he
probably had a beard. The overstuffed red suit is replaced by a bishop's
regalia, complete with miter and shepherd's staff.

"We're not opposed to Santa Claus or Father Christmas or whatever you want
to call him," said Rosenthal, who is originally from Chicago. "But we
believe children should know his real name."

The origins of the modern Santa Claus are murky. Dutch immigrants brought
the tradition of St. Nicholas as "Sinter Klass," which had been grafted
onto the Kriss Kringle and Nicholas legends from Europe. Along the way,
Claus acquired a flying sleigh and reindeer. It wasn't until 1939 that a
certain red-nosed reindeer was added.

By 1822, he was immortalized as rosy-cheeked, "chubby and plump" in "
'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

It's not so much the person of Santa Claus that annoys Rosenthal, but the
commercialism he has come to represent.

"The secular verity compels us to buy and shop 'til we drop," Rosenthal
said, "whereas the Christian verity expressed in St. Nicholas is to enjoy
and share and maybe drop to your knees in prayer."

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