Santa Remembered?


False memory is usually said to be the psychological phenomenon in which we can recall an event that either did not actually happen or did not happen the way we “remember” it.

“Honest, officer, I remember slowing down…” and by the time I got to talk to the judge I actually remembered that…sort of. And a year later, I really remembered it. Sometimes we make false memories on purpose. And sometimes, we happily support them.

Remember Santa Claus? Well, not personally. Saint Nicholas, also called Nikolaos of Myra, apparently was a real person who lived from March 15, 270 until December 6, 343, about 17 centuries ago in the city of Demre, part of modern-day Turkey.

Today, he is one of the most recognizable symbols of an even more distant event which the Christian world – and even in the world of those who don’t count themselves in that number – celebrates as Christmas and commemorates in so many ways. Few doubt the historical truth of those events and people, though no one, obviously “remembers” them.

Does that mean all of history is made of false memories? What about Washington’s Birthday and the 4th of July? And what about your great grandfather? We all conspire, in the most cheerful ways, to commemorate them and celebrate them.

This week, the Jamestown Gazette invites our readers to join in the festive remembrances and celebrations of the holiday season in parades, parties and public celebrations.

Can we, however, remember them in ways that make them more real? The trick is to remember the spirit behind them and try to live in that spirit. Both Saint Nicholas and the Christ commemorated in the word Christmas have been brought forward for all of these centuries as reminders of selfless giving motivated by kindness, love and a sincere spirit of generosity, even unmerited by the receiver.

President Calvin Coolidge once said, “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

So, this year, enjoy the parade, the Santa Train, the sentiment and beauty of a village nativity scene as you always have. But be aware that the way to make it a real memory is to understand and practice the real, living spirit of the season itself.
And… enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut
The Jamestown Gazette

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.