Orland Park actor, author brings story of Santa Claus to life at Aurora church

"Do good without expecting anything in return. And do good deeds all year long, not just at Christmas."

That was the double challenge Friday, Dec. 8, from Orland Park actor and author Terry Lynch at Bethany United Methodist Church in Aurora.

In a performance titled "Nicholas Comes to America: The Story of Santa Claus," a costumed Lynch shared Christmas traditions from around the world.

Enlisting audience volunteers and distributing candy canes, his performance highlighted an early Christmas luncheon by the church's Great Agers senior citizens group.

Lynch recounted how the Santa story originated with St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, Turkey, about 270 A.D. From the small town of Patara, an orphan named Nicholas became a boy bishop who became the patron saint of sailors.

Lynch and his wife Laura chronicled St. Nicholas' story in a softbound book, "Nicholas Comes to America: The Story of Santa Claus." They wrote, "Nicholas was and is a real person. Through the centuries, he has taken many forms throughout the world, dressed in the clothing of the country and culture to make its people feel truly special."

From his feast day on Dec. 6 through the Feast of Epiphany, Jan. 6, St. Nicholas has become a beloved part of celebrations worldwide.

Eventually, the Lynches say, St. Nicholas came to the U.S. He was named the patron saint of New York City and six churches of various denominations are dedicated to St. Nicholas.

About Christmas traditions

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene to make the Christmas season a time of peace and goodwill.

Christmas presents were known in antiquity among kings and chieftains, especially in Europe. In Iceland, however, they have been common among ordinary people only for the past 100 years.

The origin of Christmas cookies lies in Medieval European recipes. Cookies spread over Europe by 1500.

The abbreviation of Xmas for Christmas is not irreligious. The first letter of the word Christ in Greek is chi, identical to X. Xmas was originally an ecclesiastical abbreviation used in tables and charts.

In North American poetry and illustrations, Santa Claus in his white beard, red jacket and pompon-topped cap, goes forth on the night before Christmas in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer.

Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday in 1836.

The partridge in a pear tree in "12 Days of Christmas" is meant to symbolize Christ and the pear tree his cross.

Visit the Lynches' website at for more information.

The Rev. Sam Park, pastor at Bethany United Methodist Church in Aurora, serves desserts at a senior-citizen Christmas lunch Dec. 8. The lunch preceded a performance titled "Nicholas Comes to America: The Story of Santa Claus." Courtesy of Al Benson
Father Christmas, portrayed by Orland Park actor and author Terry Lynch, poses for a photo with audience members at Bethany United Methodist Church in Aurora Friday, Dec. 8. Courtesy of Al Benson
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