Everyone knows who Santa Claus is. But centuries before he became the jolly sleigh-riding elf we all love, St. Nicholas was a bishop in Turkey who performed miracles, got into fisticuffs with a heretic, and, of course, gave out presents. And we can all continue to learn from and be inspired by this unique saint.
Today (Dec. 6) is the feast of St. Nicholas, still a very important feast for Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox Christians. He was bishop of Myra in Turkey. He was born to rich, pious parents, although they died while he was still young. During the harsh persecutions of Roman Emperor Diocletian he confessed his Christian faith but, unlike so many other Christians of that era, survived (though he was put in jail). Nicholas was still quite well-off when he was free, but he chose to donate his wealth to the poor.
In one instance, Nicholas saved three poor girls from prostitution and/or slavery by throwing bags of gold in their window on three separate occasions, thus providing dowries so they could be married instead of enslaved. On the third night, when the father caught Nicholas at his secretive charity, the bag of gold Nicholas tossed in is said to have landed in a stocking drying before the fire. Yes, that’s the story that inspired the hanging of stockings which St. Nicholas still fills with presents today! Tradition also holds that the three golden balls hung outside a pawnbroker’s were based off this story.
Of course, not all of Nicholas’s help was monetary. He is said to have raised to life again children who had been murdered and pickled in a brine-tub. St. Nicholas was always there for the kids!
Read the rest on Substack.
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