Saint Nicholas

06Dec12

Many people know that the myth of Santa Claus has its roots in the story of Saint Nicholas. Legend has it Saint Nicholas lived sometime during the first half of the fourth century (ca. A.D. 300-350). He was bishop of a town called Myra, located in what is now southern Turkey.  Myra was an important seaport in the ancient world. Sailors and merchants frequently stopped there to drop off cargo or to change ships. According to Acts 27:5-8, it was in Myra that Saint Paul and his guards, on their journey to Rome, boarded an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy.  Very little is known about the real Saint Nicholas. His name is Greek and means “people’s victor,” (Nikos + Laos). The earliest record we have of Nicholas comes from when the emperor Justinian (A.D. 527-565) ordered the restoration of a church in Myra named for this saint. Our lack of information about Nicholas is due, in part, to the iconoclastic upheavals of the eighth century when thousands of church documents about saints were destroyed.

St Nicholas_Playmobil

Through the centuries, many stories about the life of Nicholas have been told. One in particular seems to have forever connected him with the tradition of giving gifts anonymously. It tells the story of a poor family with three daughters and no money for dowries. According to local custom, without dowries the young women could not have married and ran the risk of being sold into slavery. Nicholas dropped bags of gold down the chimney of the family’s home so the daughters could escape a life of servitude.

**taken from The Online Advent Garland**

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