Respect & Unity

San⁠t⁠a Claus Embod⁠i⁠es ⁠t⁠he Amer⁠i⁠can Sp⁠i⁠r⁠i⁠⁠t⁠

By: Gabriel Nadales / December 21, 2022

Gabriel Nadales

National Director – Western Region

Respect & Unity

December 21, 2022

I recently went to a department store and saw a familiar sight at the door – Santa Claus ringing a bell asking for donations to help the less fortunate this Christmas season. The iconic Red Kettle Salvation Army Campaign has been happening in some form for more than 130 years.

The campaign first began as an effort by the Salvation Army to raise funds to pay for the free meals it gave out on Christmas day. That’s when I realized just how uniquely American the tradition truly is. 

Not the Christmas part, of course. Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world. But every country has a different style of celebrating the holiday.

For example, in my native home of Mexico, we celebrate Christmas quite differently. People in Mexico celebrate Christmas by hosting a “Posada” every night from December 16 to the 24th. Each posada is a party where the host invites the community to eat atole (an Aztec hot and sweet drink), tamales (an Aztec pastry cooked with corn dough and filled with meat or other fillings), and sweet bread (French-Mexican pastries) to commemorate Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn for the impending birth of Jesus.

And while it may be a surprise to most Americans, Mexican people don’t get presents on Christmas day. Not even children. Santa Claus is seldom celebrated in Mexican homes. Instead, children receive three gifts on January 6th to commemorate the day the Three Kings each gave Jesus one gift.

Funny enough, while Christmas was familiar, Santa Claus was a culture shock for me when I first migrated to America in 2002. But I can’t say I complained because I got gifts on both days.

Despite this, Santa Claus is a wonderful addition to the Christmas lore. Because St. Nicholas, the Patron Saint of Children, embodies a selfless attitude that every person should adopt and one that countless Americans do adopt every Christmas season. 

This is why for over 130 years, Santa Claus has stood outside stores throughout America, encouraging people to give to help the less fortunate. I have seen them standing in the rain and snow, ringing a bell for hours to help feed people in need.

This selfless attitude is why Santa Claus was a welcomed tradition in my Mexican immigrant home. And that is why it will continue to inspire millions of families like mine to embrace American traditions.

Santa Claus truly embodies the American spirit.