Santas take oath, vow to carry out mission of Saint Nicholas

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The Santas who attended the Charles W. Howard Legendary Santa Claus Conference joined hands and recited the Santa Claus Oath during their ceremonies on Friday in the Albion Middle School Auditorium.

The oath was developed in 2010 by Phil Wenz, a Santa at the iconic Santa’s Village Theme Park in Dundee, Ill. He also was coordinator of the Santa Claus Conference this past week.

Wenz created the oath and dedicated it to two legendary Santas: Charlie Howard of Albion and Jim Yellig of Santa Claus, Ind. Howard started a popular Santa Claus School in Albion in 1937, which he ran until his death in 1966. Many of his principles for interacting with children and standards for dress for Santa continue today. Yellig portrayed Santa for 54 years and over 6,000 days. He died in 1984.

When Wenz created the oath, he had the grandsons of the two legendary Santas be the first to sign it. Howard’s grandson, Charles Bergeman, and Yellig’s grandson, Will Koch, signed it together in October 2008. They signed it in the Candy Castle in Santa Claus, Indiana, where Howard and Yellig had met 70 years prior.

More than 5,000 members of the Santa Claus community have now signed the document.

Some of the Santas and Mrs. Clauses hold hands and recite the Santa Claus Oath on Friday.

The Santa Claus Oath

I will seek knowledge to be well versed in the mysteries of bringing Christmas cheer and good will to all the people that I encounter in my journeys and travels.

I shall be dedicated to hearing the secret dreams of both children and adults.

I understand that the true and only gift I can give, as Santa, is myself.

I acknowledge that some of the requests I will hear will be difficult and sad. I know in these difficulties there lies an opportunity to bring a spirit of warmth, understanding and compassion.

I know the “real reason for the season” and know that I am blessed to be able to be a part of it.

I realize that I belong to a brotherhood and will be supportive, honest and show fellowship to my peers.

I promise to use “my” powers to create happiness, spread love and make fantasies come to life in the true and sincere tradition of the Santa Claus Legend.

I pledge myself to these principles as a descendant of Saint Nicholas the gift giver of Myra.

– Phillip L. Wenz

In addition to reciting the Santa Clause Oath, several of the Santas were “knighted” during the conference. As Knights of Saint Nicholas they are “called to a higher Santa Claus experience,” Wenz said.

The Santas were blessed with manna, a liquid they believe comes from the bones of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy. The manna was mixed with holy water and put in a bottle. The Rev. Richard Csizmar, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church, blessed the manna on Thursday during a mass in Albion at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church.

“This is the closest thing you can get to the real St. Nicholas,” Wenz told about 200 Santas on Friday.

After the knighting ceremony on Friday, the empty bottle was given to Holy Family Parish so an artifact from St. Nicholas could stay in Charlie Howard’s hometown.

The knighting program isn’t a Catholic or Protestant effort, but a push “to keep Christ in Christmas,” Wenz said.

Phil Wenz, left, leads the knighting ceremony that includes Everett Johnson, a Santa from Knoxville, Tenn.

The Creed of the Knights of St. Nicholas

“I believe in the miracle of the manger and the message of the child who was born as the Messiah as God’s true gift to all mankind. I acknowledge the Passion and the sacrifice made as a paradigm that it is truly better to give than to receive.

“I understand the devotion of Nicholas of Myra and his conviction to God’s love for all mankind as an example to follow. I am a mere mortal who has no magical powers except the belief of loyalty to the tradition of the Advent Season that has been handed down from generation to generation to me by my family and friends.

“I acknowledge that the true basis for the celebration is the child of the manger and I promise to make all children happy to the best of my abilities in his name. I confirm these beliefs to myself and to the Spirit of Christmas as a Knight of St. Nicholas, a servant of people everywhere.”