The Origin of Species

by Phyllis McGinley

Nicholas, Bishop of Myra’s See,
Was holy a saint
As a saint could be;
Saved not a bit
Of his worldly wealth
And loved to commit
Good deeds by stealth.

Was there a poor man,
Wanting a roof?
Nicholas sheltered him weatherproof.
Who lacked a morsel
Had but to ask it
And at his doorsill
Was Nicholas’ basket.

0, many a basket did he carry.
Penniless girls
Whom none would marry
Used to discover to their delight,
Into their windows
Tossed at night
(When the moon was old
And the dark was showry),
Bags of gold
Enough for a dowry.

People, I read,
Grew slightly lyrical,
Calling each deed
He did, a miracle.
Told how he calmed the sea for sailors
And rescued children
From awful jailors
Who, drawing lots
For the foul design,
Liked pickling tots
In pickle brine.

Nicholas, circa
Fourth cent. A.D.,
Died in the odor of sanctity.
But fortune changes,
Blessings pass,
And look what’s happened to Nicholas.

He who had feared
The world’s applause,
Now, with a beard,
Is Santa Claus.
A multiplied elf, he struts and poses,
Ringing up sales
In putty noses;
With Comet and Cupid
His constant partners,
Telling tall tales to kindergart’ners,
His halo fickle as
Wind and wave.

While dizzily Nicholas
Spins in his grave.

Just one thing to do today:  Have your kids write letters to St. Nick.  But, instead of listing all the things they’d like to receive for Christmas, have them write about a special need they’d like to meet by sacrificing a Christmas gift or two.  You may want to decide on a local charity or world relief organization as a family.  Then have the kids either draw pictures or write letters explaining why the need your family has chosen is more important that the toy they want to receive.

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