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Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas
  • Century: 3rd & 4th Century
  • Patronage: Children, Sailors, Fishermen, Merchants, Broadcasters, Falsely Accused, Repentant Thieves
  • Feast Day: December 6th

Patronage – Children, Sailors, Fishermen, Merchants, Broadcasters, Falsely Accused, Repentant Thieves, Pharmacists, Archers, Pawn Brokers

St. Nicholas was born a Greek in Asia Minor, in the city of Patara, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea.  He lived in Myra, Lycia – part of modern day Demre, Turkey, and at that time was a region of Greek heritage, culture, and politically part of the Roman Diocese of Asia.  He was the only son of a wealthy Christian family.  He was religious from an early age and according to legend, he rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays.  An epidemic took his parents lives while he was young, and his uncle, also named Nicholas raised him.  His uncle Nicholas was the Bishop of Patara.  Bishop Nicholas tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader, and later as a Priest. 

Young Nicholas went on to become the Bishop of Patara in the footsteps of his uncle.  Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is known as a wonder worker.  He had a reputation for secret gift giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and for this reason, became the model for Santa Claus.  The Name Santa Claus comes from the many translations of “St. Nikolaos”.  His reputation evolved among the faithful, over the period of his 73 years.  He eventually died and little is known of his death.  In 1087 part of his relics were translated to Bari, in southeastern Italy, and for this reason, he is also known as Nikolaos of Bari.  His remaining bones were taken to Venice in 1100.  His feast day is always December 6th

Either way, St. Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians.  He is also honored by various Anglican and Lutheran churches.  During a great famine that Myra experienced in 311, a ship was in the port at anchor.  It was loaded with wheat for the Emperor in Constantinople.  Nicholas invited the sailors to unload a part of the wheat to help in time of need.  The sailors at first disliked the request, because the wheat had to be weighed accurately and delivered to the Emperor.  St. Nicholas promised them they would not suffer any loss for doing this, and they agreed.  When they arrived later in the capital, they made a suprising find.  The weight of the load had not changed, although the wheat removed in Myra was enough for two full years and could even be used for sowing their new crop!  This is one of many reported miracles. 

There is a tradition of St. Nicholas Day, and it usually is on his feast day of December 6th.  It is a festival for children in many European countries, and is related to the surviving legends of the saint and his being a “bringer of gifts”.  In fact, the American Santa Claus is derived from St. Nicholas and his secretly giving gifts to those in need. 

Practical Take Away

St. Nicholas was born in Greece, and lost his parents to an epidemic at a young age.  His uncle, the Bishop of Patara, raised him.  He was noted for being religious at a very early age and with the influence of his uncle, went on to study the faith, was ordained, and became the Bishop of Patara as well.  He was noted for his compassion, strong spirituality and secret “gift giving”.  Because of this secret gift giving, he became the mythical “Santa Claus”, which is derived in part from the Dutch “Sinterklaas” – St. Nicholas.