Jolly old Saint Nicholas may not have been the old man who everyone equates with Santa Claus. Sure he was a man who had a reputation for secret gift giving, putting coins in shoes and was a wonder worker. Earlier this week over on St. Peter’s List they had a post about Saint Nicholas with is very informative and includes some great memes as well.
A basic refresher on Saint Nick. Nicholas the Wonder-worker is a model for Santa Claus, which is derived from the Dutch Sinterklass, which itself is a transliteration of Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was very religious as a child and after his parents died he was raised in a monastery by his Uncle who ordained him. Nicholas was named Abbot and eventually became Archbishop of Myra. He was at the Council of Nicaea where as the debate about Arianism became so heated Nicholas punched Arius in the face. It is said that he like most other Christians suffered under Diocletian’s reign.
There are many legends associated with Saint Nicholas. In one during a famine a butcher kills three kids and places their remains in a barrel to cure as he planned to sell them off as ham. Nicholas, visiting to care for the hungry, not only saw through the butcher’s horrific crime but also resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers. In another the most famous of the Nicholas legends a poor man has three daughters and can’t afford to marry them off. So the daughters would be forced into prostitution to make money. Nicholas hears of their plight and comes during the cover of night and tosses bags of gold one for each daughter through the window. There are many variations on both of these stories.
Saint Nicholas is honored by all denominations. I hope that we all can celebrate Nicholas today by doing something small, like putting coins in shoes.