Every Christmas, millions of children are expecting presents from Santa Claus. But who is he? Today’s legend of Santa Claus is based on a real person who played an important role in early Christianity. He is called Saint Nicholas of Myra.
Nicholas was born in the city of Myra in Turkey. Not much is known about his life, but he is remembered for giving gifts. He had heard of a poor man who had three daughters who could not afford to pay for their weddings.
Nicholas felt sorry for the father, and in the night, he sneaked up to his house and threw in a bag of gold coins so the father could afford to have one of his daughters get married. After the first wedding, he returned one night and threw in another bag of gold for the second daughter.
The third time, the father stayed awake every night to catch the person who did this and thank him. He then saw that it was Nicholas.
According to the stories, Nicholas performed several miracles, and he became a bishop in Myra. His paintings show him as an older man with a white beard, a pointy bishop hat, and a red robe. Sounds familiar?
As Bishop, Nicholas participated in what is known as the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. It is a famous meeting because all the Christian churches discussed and agreed on what it means to be a Christian. The statement of belief they came up with became known as the Nicene Creed.
Later, he was canonized as a saint due to his miracles and remembered by Christians worldwide. Especially in the Netherlands, it became a tradition to give gifts on December 6. The tradition was called Sinterklaas, Dutch slang for Saint Nicholas.
That tradition came to America, and Sinterklaas became Santa Claus. The date of gift-giving was moved to December 25, on Christmas Day. The next time you open your Christmas presents, remember that it was a tradition that started with one man more than 1600 years ago – Saint Nicholas of Myra.
The Nicene Creed
“I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.”