Santa Clause, Father Christmas, Jolley Ole Man and St. Nick; these are some of the common names given to the man that brings gifts to the children around the world as we celebrate the holiday known as Christmas.  While each of these names represents the same man we know today, they have their own origins and legacies.  So who was St Nick.

Many of our traditions adopted for the Christmas season originate at a time before the birth of Christ and some are formulated from pagan rights of Germanic or Roman in nature.  Not so with St. Nicholas or St Nick as we commonly call him.  St. Nick was an actual person and lived in Turkey during the third century after Christ and prior to the adoption of Christianity as Rome’s official religion.  As a youth he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Egypt, returned to Turkey, became the bishop of the town of Myrna and was later imprisoned.  When Constantin took over power of Eastern Rome and proclaimed Christianity to be the religion of the empire, Nicholas was released from prison.

To be elevated to a position of Saint, it is important that various miracles be documented.  One story of St Nicholas discloses that he foresaw a severe storm hitting the boat he was sailing on while reroute to Jerusalem.  During the storm a sailor fell and was killed.  The sailors begged Nicholas to pray to stop the storm.  He did so and the waters quickly calmed.  Then he turned to the sailor, prayed over him and sailor came back to life as if he had been asleep.

When he arrived in Jerusalem he asked to worship in the last church remaining in the town.  It was the Church of the Room of the Last Supper on Mt Zion and was identified as the place where the Last Supper was held.  As he approached the church with the heavily locked doors the doors suddenly swung open on their own allowing Nicholas to enter and worship.

Nicholas was famous for his giving and love of his fellow man.  His caring and calming nature reassured the sailors during the storm on the Mediterranean Sea.  There is the story that a man had three daughters and he was not able to provide a dowry so the daughters would not be married.  There was only way for unmarried women to make a living and they would be compelled to become ladies of the night.  Even if they did not get cast into that profession they would be assumed to be prostitutes so their future was quite bleak.  The story is that Nicholas slipped by the father’s house and threw in three small sacks of gold coins for their dowry and thus allow the daughters to live a respectful life.  He did not want to be identified and thus provided the coins in the middle of the night.

Later the poor would leave a shoe at their door  in the middle of the night.   Nicholas would place a coin in them and when they awoke they had a gift from the future Saint.  He did so at night to not be identified.  Thus the tradition of Santa Clause was born.  This in essence places the tradition of gift giving and the story of Santa Clause to have religious roots that can be traced back to St Nicholas in the early third century B.C., seventeen hundred years ago.

St Nicholas is now identified as the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe.


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