Santa Claus was a Saint? And there’s a feast in his honor?

St Nicholas Face
Bishop Nicholas of Myra

Santa Claus has a feast? Yep, …well St. Nicholas certainly does!  Although, as the song goes, when Santa laughs “his belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly” which may mean the Santa we are shown these days may have feasted too much! 🙂

Every year on December 6th, the Church remembers and celebrates this early Christian Bishop’s incredible faith and story.

St. Nicholas was the only child of wealthy Greek parents who died during his childhood. It is believed that Nicholas divided his inheritance from his parents among the poor. Orphaned, he was raised by his uncle and became a Christian. He traveled far and wide and sailed to Jerusalem as well. He was later ordained a priest. When he returned to Asia-minor (southeastern Turkey), the people experienced his love for humanity.  Nicholas’ devotion to the Christian faith and his selflessness led him to follow his calling to defend the falsely accused, aid the helpless, and comfort the poor. One of the best-known of his many acts of charity involved a man who was preparing to send his three daughters into prostitution because there was no dowry for them to be properly married. Nicholas secretly placed three stockings full of gold in the man’s house one night, saving the women from prostitution.

Nicholas’s compassion and witness of the Gospel, his life and actions on behalf of the powerless, resulted in his torture and imprisonment by Roman authorities. Over time, the persecution of Christians by the Roman empire abated, and Nicholas was eventually freed by the Roman emperor Constantine. Nicholas was later installed as the Bishop of Myra, a town in what is now southwestern Turkey. Bishop Nicholas attended the first council of Nicaea and took part in the formation of the Nicean Creed, which is recited at worship services in Orthodox and Catholic churches to this day.

Nicholas is regarded as the patron saint of children, sailors, prisoners, and the countries of Russia and Greece. He is arguable the most popular Christian saint in the world. His devotion and love for helping people and sharing the light of Christ continues to inspire the world to this day. Some 1500 or more churches in the world are named after St. Nicholas. One such church in the United States, the St. Nicholas Church located in New York City, was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Word Trade Center.  This Church is being rebuilt and will be dedicated as shrine at ‘ground zero’ adjacent to the memorial, welcoming all people as a place of worship and symbol of love and restoration – click the link here (St. Nicholas Church at World Trade Center).

How does this man become Santa Claus? These days, the world celebrates a very secular Christmas holiday to mark the devotion and love that St. Nicholas’ Christian witness brought to humanity. In the U.S., Santa Claus and the secular Christmas holiday events are derived from the 19th-century adaptations of St. Nicholas’ compassionate giving in the Dutch and English adaptation of Sinterklass and the English adaptation of Father Christmas (How did St. Nicholas become Santa Claus?).

St. Nicholas’ witness is simple because he lived a life of deep devotion. His life calls us to give our love to all of humanity. This love manifests in all the ways we respond to people in all walks of life and especially those in need.

St Nicholas’ story is a story of love. It is the love that moves us to follow Christ’s command to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’…the same love that God showed to us when He sent His only begotten son…as the light of the world. Joy to the World!

Happy Advent!

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St. Nicholas, Feast Day-December 6th

 

For more information, be sure to click the links below:

1.) St. Nicholas: a simple story

2.)  Family fun: an illustration of St. Nicholas’ life and witness

3.)  A human story