Elizabeth Thatcher came to the Columbia Valley in 1909, with her husband, the Rev. Ernest Thatcher, to minister to the congregation of St Paul’s Anglican in Golden. During their time at St. Paul’s they became very well know and loved by the people of the town.
In 1912, the Rev. and Elizabeth Thatcher moved to Galena (Spillimacheen) and built a home there. It was while at St. Mark’s at Galena that Elizabeth Thatcher really worked her way into the hearts of the valley people. Sunday school was held by Mrs. Thatcher at her home and often she would go out with her pony to pick up children that she thought might not otherwise make it. It didn’t seem to make a difference to Mrs. Thatcher that it was below freezing gout, she would go wherever she was called and do the work of the Lord at every opportunity.
Elizabeth hosted many bazaars in her home to help with the work of the church and was often called out to members of the congregation to help with the sick or to bring a new baby into the world.
Reverend Thatcher passed away in 1934, leaving Mrs. Thatcher alone in the valley. Elizabeth continued with her Sunday School until arthritis prevented her doing so, and before long she found it necessary to move to the coast.
Even after Mrs. Thatcher moved she kept in close contact with the people of the valley and was often called upon by her faithful friends to help counsel them. Such was the case when she was asked by Mrs. Sykes how to explain Santa Claus from a Christian viewpoint without taking away from the traditional story. The letter was dated 1939. I realize that this story isn’t perhaps being presented in the right season, but believe that the lady’s wisdom shows through and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
“A long time ago in a small village in Bavaria there lived a man who was a Bishop of the Church. He was a very good man, so good that people called him a Saint. Though in their language Saint – is Santa and Claus was his other name. So you get Santa Claus. Saint means a person who always tries to do the will of God and the will of God is that we should always be kind and helpful to the other people. And this is what Santa Claus was always doing, helping people whenever they were in trouble. But he never liked to be thanked for the things he did. But would always say, no, no don’t speak on it, but thank the Good God.
One year the people of the village were in a very sorry plight. The year had been a bad one. From one cause or another there was great failure of crops and most of the people having nothing to sell had no money. And as Christmas drew near the people were really sad. They said “Here is Christmas coming, the birthday of the Christ Child who came down to earth from Heaven to be the friend of little children, and the Savior of the world and we are too poor to make a feast to bid him welcome. For the Good Bishop, Santa Claus had taught the people that on Christmas Day they ought to rejoice and be glad and to be specially kind to the children so that they might really feel that they were indeed keeping the birthday of the King who came down to Earth as a little child – and joining in that beautiful song of the angels “Glory to God in the Highest, Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men.”
So Christmas Day was always a great festival. All the people together with the children would to to church and take their part in a very beautiful service with carol singing. Then in the homes there would be a feast with all the things that children liked best: Cakes, candies, nuts and also toys. But when the bad year came and there was no money with which to buy things for the children the parents were very sad.
So too was the good Bishop, Santa Claus, and he wondered what he could possibly do. And at last decided that he would give them a great surprise. So he got a lot of baskets which he filled with all sorts of good things and then after midnight on Christmas Eve, when all the people were in bed, he set out with his sleigh loaded with baskets and a long rope. As the houses of the poor people were all very low, and with straight chimneys going down to the hearth stone, he was able to climb onto the roof and passing the rope under the handle of the basket he lowered down the chimney and onto the hearth.
Just imagine the surprise when the baskets were found the next morning and the children were able to have their feast after all. And ever after as Christmas drew near the children would say, “L wonder what Santa Claus will bring me.” The parents fell in with the idea by surprising their children at Christmas time with presents from Santa Claus.
Like all things of that sort the idea spread from one country to another, though in some places, Santa Claus is called Saint Nicolas. But we must always remember that but for the Birth of Jesus Christ, there would have been no Santa Claus.
Elizabeth Thatcher called all her Sunday School children “her children,” and her teachings and values followed them throughout their lives. She left a lasting impression on everyone she met.