Friday, December 9, 2011

The Real Saint Nick

History provides many examples of actual people who have, over time, become so melded into the popular imagination that we tend to forget they were real. Saint Nicholas is one of them.

Born sometime around 280 A.D. in the town of Patara, in what was then part of Greece but is now part of Turkey, Nicholas was the son of wealthy parents who died when he was young. Having been raised as a devoted Christian, he spent his life using his inheritance to help those in need, and in addition to his charity he became known for harboring great concern for children and sailors.

Down through history, one particular story about his generosity has persisted. In those days, women whose families could not pay a dowry were more likely to die as spinsters than to get married. It is said that when Nicholas learned of a poor man who was worried about his daughters’ fate because he lacked money for their dowries, Nicholas surreptitiously tossed gold into the man’s home through an open window, and the gold landed in stockings that were drying by the fire. Much later, this 1,700-year-old story inspired the modern tradition of hanging stockings by the chimney to receive gifts from Santa on Christmas Eve.

Nicholas became Bishop of Myra and was imprisoned during the anti-Christian persecutions carried out by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Based on the stories of his life, Catholic tradition considers him a patron saint of children, orphans, sailors, travelers, the wrongly imprisoned, and many other categories of people. Churches were constructed in his honor as early as the sixth century A.D. Today, his remains are buried in Bari, Italy.

For generations now, kids and adults alike have used the names Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, and Saint Nick interchangeably, without giving it a second thought. But there was an actual Saint Nicholas, a decent man who is obscured by commercial renderings of Christmas. We should not allow that fact to be forgotten, regardless of whether or not we are Catholic (and for the record, I am not).

3 comments:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi John, First of all, let me say Merry Christmas to you and your family.. I know a couple of kids who will be very happy on Christmas morning... (I remember those days--many years ago.)

We do bring too much secularism into Christmas, don't we??? Love the story about Saint Nicholas. By the way, I have a blog friend whose entire blog is about all of the Saint Nicholas Churches all over the world... There are MANY...

Betsy

Fred Alton said...

Hi, John! Thanks for coming by and commenting on my blog. I loved this post about the truth of the person we often call St. Nick. I pray that more of his kind may arise even in our highly commercialized Christmas world today. God Bless you and give you and your's the best Christmas you have ever had.

Karen Xavier said...

Hey, this was nice... I knew the real Santa Claus was St.Nicholas, did now know how the stocking story came into being. Wish you a wonderful and blessed Christmas and a great year ahead...
Thanks for stopping by my blog...