Believe it or not, it is true. No, I am not talking about the scene in “Miracle on 34th Street” when Santa hit the psychiatrist with his cane. I am talking about the guy from whom we get Santa Claus. He was a real person named Saint Nicholas.
First, let’s talk about how he became Santa Claus and where the whole gift-giving thing comes from. Many people may not know that Saint Nicholas was a real person, who was very generous. Here is how his gift-giving become part of the legend of Santa. (from EWTN.com)
He was very well brought up, we are told, by pious and virtuous parents, who set him to studying the sacred books at the age of five. His parents died while he was still young, leaving him with a comfortable fortune, which he resolved to use for works of charity. Soon an opportunity came. A citizen of Patara had lost all his money and his three daughters could not find husbands because of their poverty. In despair their wretched father was about to commit them to a life of shame. When Nicholas heard of this, he took a bag of gold and at night tossed it through an open window of the man’s house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl, and she was quickly married. Nicholas did the same for the second and then for the third daughter. On the last occasion the father was watching by the window, and overwhelmed his young benefactor with gratitude.
There are stories that he did this several times and would toss the money into stockings that were hanging either by the windows or the fireplace so that they could dry. That is where we get the idea of presents getting put into stockings that hang on fireplace mantles.
Now onto the story that I love about Saint Nicholas. He was invited to the Council of Nicea where the Nicene Creed was established. (If you have never read it then click on that link and read it. It has the essentials of the Christian faith in it.)
It was at this Council that his legend takes on a whole new light because there was someone named Arius that argued that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father. He argued his position at length and eventually angered Saint (or should I say “Saint”) Nick so much that he walked across the room and struck him. Jolly old Saint Nick was then thrown into jail for doing this but eventually released. It is said that because of his passion the Council at Nicea affirmed what the Scriptures teach regarding Jesus being equal with God the Father. Here are two paintings that are of this event.
I find it very ironic that one person who fought to make sure that Jesus was fully recognized for who He really is became the person that we now have replaced Jesus with. The shadow of Santa Claus is so much bigger than Jesus here in our country and I think that this would make Saint Nicholas very sad. I have the following statue sitting out every year for Christmas because I believe that it expresses the true heart of Santa Claus this time of year. I hope that on this Christmas Eve that you will make sure that Jesus has His proper place in your Christmas celebration.