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Jesus; the reason for the season….Who is St. Nicholas?

Jesus; the reason for the season….Who is St. Nicholas?

By Reverend Father Jaison Kuzhiyil

Jesus; the reason for the season….Who is St. Nicholas?

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara in Asia Minor. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

For the next few centuries, Nicholas was celebrated as a model of Christian care for the poor and became one of the most popular patron saints of the medieval period. In the English speaking world, we must look to late-medieval England and its celebration of “Father Christmas.” He was originally a metaphor, like “Lady Luck,” and had no culturally recognizable appearance. But after a while, Father Christmas came to be depicted as a jolly, bearded man in a green robe who brought good cheer and merriment to adults (rather than children) during the Christmas season.

In early nineteenth-century America, every December the Dutch continued to celebrate the arrival of Sinterklass, whom Washington Irving described in 1809 with the English equivalent of “Santa Claus” (though he looked like an overweight sailor dressed in green). The rest of what we associate with Santa Claus comes from a variety of sources, including the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”

Jesus is the reason for the season, through his life on earth he showed us how much he loved and cared for the needy people. Following the footsteps of Jesus, St. Nicholas is a reminder that Christmas is not all about Santa Claus but about sharing and caring for the less fortunate ones.

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