Saint Nicholas - Santa Claus

The Man Behind Father Christmas -Santa Claus

St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century AD in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey). He was a very rich man and his parents died when he was young leaving a lot of money for him. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it. There are several legends about St. Nicholas, although we don't know if any of them are true!

Saint Nicholas - Santa Claus

The most famous story about St. Nicholas tells how the custom of hanging up stockings to get presents began!

It goes like this:

There was a poor man who had three daughters. Due to poverty he was unable to offer dowry and thus was unable to get suitable grooms for his daughters. One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house. The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! With this he was able to marry off the eldest daughter.

This was repeated later for the second daughter as well.

Finally, determined to discover the person who was helping him, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping the bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, as he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got around and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that it was from Nicholas. Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint.

St. Nicholas is not only the saint of children but also of sailors!

One story tells of him helping some sailors that were caught in a dreadful storm off the coast of Turkey. The storm was raging around them and all the men were terrified that their ship would sink beneath the giant waves. They prayed to St. Nicholas to help them. Suddenly, he was standing on the deck before them. He ordered the sea to be calm, the storm died away, and they were able to sail their ship safely to port.

St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. No one really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either 345 or 352 AD.

In 1807, his bones were stolen from Turkey by some Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari.

On St. Nicholas feast day (6th December), the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathedral out to sea, so that he can bless the waters and so give them safe voyages throughout the year.

This is how Santa Claus evolved.