The Man Behind Santa Claus: St. Nicholas

The countdown to Christmas has begun. Who better to talk about other than Santa Claus, Father Christmas, and the man behind the idea, St. Nicholas? If you are wondering to yourself, “Who is St. Nicholas?” this article is just what you are looking for.

Who is Saint Nicholas?

A painting of St. NicholasSaint Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, the capital of Lycia. The area belonged to the Greeks at the birth time of St. Nicholas, and now it resides in the southern part of modern-day Turkey. Nicholas’ parents were rich and devout Christians. Unfortunately, due to an illness, both of his parents passed away while he was young.

As a devout Christian himself, he followed the teachings of Jesus Christ and sold all his inheritance to give gifts to the poor and the downtrodden. Among these downtrodden people were widows, homeless people, and children. While he was known for many good and pious deeds, giving children gifts is the one that has stuck with people the most. There are also stories about St. Nicholas that depict him as the protector of children.

Among Christians all over the world, he is revered as the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, unmarried people, and students. Some of these groups were either helped and protected by St. Nicholas, or they were taught a lesson of humility and kindness by him.

 

What is St. Nicholas’ relation to Santa Claus?

Santa Claus carrying giftsWhile there are many different sources that are mentioned as being the main idea or person behind Santa Claus, one of the most plausible ones is Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas is a Dutch figure of legend that is based on St. Nicholas. He is also the patron saint of children like Nicholas. It is thought to have been transferred from Europe to America with the formation of New Amsterdam in North America, and from there to the whole world.

Sinterklaas is also a celebrated figure in Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and some neighboring countries and regions. 

St. Nicholas inspired many figures that acted as gift givers throughout time. It is hard to say if he directly influenced the creation of Santa Claus, but we can certainly say that he indirectly influenced the figure.

 

How is St. Nicholas remembered today?

A statue of St. NicholasSt. Nicholas is one of the early saints in the Orthodox church. He is still fondly remembered and revered by many Christians, both Orthodox and otherwise. 6 December is celebrated as St. Nicholas Day all over the world, to pay respect to the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, unmarried people, and students.

His good deeds are also still remembered even by people who do not celebrate Christmas or are not Christians. The Turkish people also remember the saint and his generosity throughout his life. This is because Nicholas spent most of his life in Patara, a village that now resides in modern-day Turkey.

As the Seljuk Turks moved into Anatolia, the stories they had heard about the saint and his actions were preserved and passed on to future generations. While Turkey doesn’t celebrate Christmas, they also associate Santa Claus with St. Nicholas due to these stories and remember him fondly for his kindness.

 

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