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Was Santa Claus actually born in upstate New York?

As we all know, yes, there is a Santa Claus -- a historical St. Nick, that is -- none other than the great Christian forefather Nicolaus of Myra, Turkey. Moviemaker Kirk Cameron tells his story in "Saving Christmas," this year's surprise Yuletide hit. The film -- predictably denounced by critics, militant atheists and Scrooges nationwide -- has defied its detractors, being held over weeks after its scheduled two-week run, which had to be expanded to additional theaters.

Cameron tells how the true-life Kris Kringle has been revered for centuries for his generosity. What few people realize is that in the year 325, he was one of the bishops bold enough to answer the request of Roman Emperor Constantine and appear at the First Council of Nicaea where he was a staunch defender of the faith and one of the authors of what today is known as the Nicene Creed.

So, what about the claims of journalist Carl M. Cannon, the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics, who says today's jolly old elf was born in the city of Troy, New York?

"Christmas Week 2014 has been fraught with contention in New York, but before we blame the politicians," writes Cannon, "we’d do well to remember that it was in the pages of a New York newspaper that Santa Claus first appeared on these shores some three years before Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence."

What sort of secular revisionist history is this? Is Cannon serious? Yes, and he says Santa Claus was birthed by American politics. What?!?

It is "a matter of historical record that Americans owe their familiarity with St. Nicholas in part to the rivalry between Jefferson’s devotees and the Federalist Party," writes Cannon. It was "in 1823 that an anonymous poem appeared (yes, in a newspaper in New York state) that fleshed out the image of Santa Claus -- the 'right jolly old elf' -- whom children of all ages carry in their heads to this day."

Cannon correctly points out that until then, St. Nicholas had not been associated with reindeer or elves.

Then, Cannon notes that "writing under the satirical pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker," famed American  author, essayist, biographer, historian and diplomat Washington Irving, best remembered for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," authored a 1809 satirical book that kicked off the American Santa phenomenon.

Irving called it A History of New-York From the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty. "Much of Washington Irving’s satire eluded the author’s audience," writes Cannon. "His readers were simply mesmerized by tales of a guardian saint named Nicholas, who is depicted shimmying down chimneys to give leave presents for children on Christmas Eve. Irving drew on the traditions of early Dutch settlers who had brought with them from Holland tales of 'Sinterklaas' and his sleigh," writes Cannon.

But that was just the beginning of the American version of St. Nick, continues Cannon. Flying reindeer "first make an appearance in 1821 in a volume titled The Children’s Friend, one of the first books published in America," writes Cannon. Then, two years later, "Orville L. Holley, editor of an upstate New York semi-weekly newspaper named the Troy Sentinel, published an anonymous poem titled 'A Visit From St. Nicholas.' You know it by another name, taken from the first line of the poem: '’Twas the Night Before Christmas.'

"Its author was later revealed to be Clement C. Moore, a local theologian and scholar."

Political cartoonist Thomas Nast illustrated the poem -- creating "the image of Saint Nick that dances in our heads to this day," writes Cannon:

His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and a little round belly, That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!

And although Kirk Cameron is correct about the historic St. Nicholas, now you know -- as Paul Harvey used to say -- "the rest of the story."

Is anybody surprised? Media shrugs off "Saving Christmas"

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Kirk Cameron's "Saving Christmas" had a decent opening weekend despite dismal ratings by critics in the media.

That is, the public loved it although jaded journalists didn't.

"Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas debuted over the weekend with scathing reviews," noted the website Inquisitr. "Despite making an estimated $1 million at the box office, the critics were not impressed."

On Rotten Tomatoes, the reviews from professionals were brutal. One exception was the San Francisco Examiner'Joseph J. Airdo:

"Kirk Cameron plays a man who, while enjoying the his sister’s (Bridgette Ridenour) annual Christmas extravaganza, decides to help his brother-in-law (Darren Doane), who has a bad case of the bah-humbugs, see that Jesus Christ is at the center of our Christmas celebrations and traditions. (PG - 80 minutes)

"... the new faith-based flick is certain to move you as it poignantly imparts festive food-for-thought while embodying the altruistic spirit of the holiday season. Its hand is heavy but its heart is in the right place. (Thumbs Up!)"

“'Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas' begins with its host, the former star of 'Growing Pains' and now an evangelical Christian, sitting in an easy chair in front of a fully decorated Christmas tree," noted Ben Kenigsberg for the New York Times. "In his view, the holiday is under siege. 'There are some people who would love to put a big wet blanket on all of this,' he says. 'They don’t want us to love Christmas so much and celebrate it the way we do.'

"To illustrate this Bill O’Reilly-ready premise, Mr. Cameron stages an intervention — his word — with a hypothetical brother-in-law, Christian (played by the director, Darren Doane), who isn’t feeling the seasonal cheer. Christian worries that Christmas has become too materialistic, too removed from the Bible."

"The faith-based family film starring Cameron," observed Todd Cunningham for The Wrap, "opened in 410 theaters this weekend and took in a little over $1 million for distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films. That's not a breakout by any means, but its $2,486 per-screen average is pretty good, when you consider its 'fresh' or positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a dismal 10 percent."

However, some of the most glowing reviews came from Rotten Tomatoes readers.

"All of the critics hating on this movie made me want to see it," wrote viewer Andrew M.

"Saving Christmas has brought joy back into a holiday that has been increasingly given a back seat to secular concepts of removing Christ from an entire national forum." wrote Twyla E. "It helped me deal with some of the issues and nonsense I had walked into because of the relentless attacks on the Christian faith. Simple, it brought joy back. I found I was smiling throughout the movie and can't wait to put up the tree this year and walk in the excitement that that very tree will be pointing to heaven and my Lord and Savior.

"Are we surprised that his movie was rated so low? I'm not," wrote KBearsGal. "ANYTHING that brings to light the TRUTH in Christianity is spit on by the liberal politically correct people. We KNOW who is really behind all the criticism BUT we (Christians) have read the Bible and KNOW what happens to him in the end!!! Praise Jesus!!"

"I enjoyed it a lot," shared Amanda J. "Great reminder Jesus is truly the center of all we celebrate."

"It wasn't what I expected (I don't know what I expected) but I enjoyed it immensely!" offered Sue S. "Not for the non-Christian, but excellent for those who love the celebration and for those who may be feeling that the holiday as we celebrate it here in the U.S. is not 'Christian' enough."