Every Christmas, millions of children look forward to getting 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. There is a story about an old man who had three daughters. The daughters needed to get married, but the father couldn’t afford to pay for the weddings.
Nicholas felt sorry for the father. One night, he sneaked up to the house and threw a bag of gold coins inside 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.
After the second daughter, the poor father was determined to stay up and catch the person throwing in these sacks of gold so he could thank him. The father stayed awake each night until he saw Nicholas.
According to the stories, Nicholas performed several miracles and 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 – much like the Santa Claus of today.
Nicholas was declared a saint and is remembered around the world. It became a tradition to give gifts on December 6 – especially in the Netherlands. They called this Sinterklaas, which is 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.