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Who Was the Man Behind the Legend of Santa Claus?

Saint Nicholas of Myra was so well known for his generosity he inspired the legend of Santa Claus.

By:  |  December 24, 2020  |    380 Words

(Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

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. 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.

st nicholas christmas santa

(Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

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.

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 declared a saint due to his miracles and now Christians remember him around the world. 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.

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