Saint Nicholas was an eleventh century Bishop. Most early pictures depict him in white robes with gold trim; it is a Cardinal that is often dressed in red wool with white fur. Saint Nicolas is the patron saint of sailors because he once calmed the sea during a storm. He is the patron saint of brides and orphans because he once gave a gift, a dowry, to three young maidens who could not afford to get married. He is the patron saint of children because he once rescued three children who were captured by an evil butcher. And yes, he did put gold coins in stockings by the fire place because this is where children hung their stockings to dry. His gift giving was always secretive and unexpected. Because he was the patron saint of sailors, his stories traveled the world.
In English his name is Saint Nicholas
In Italian it is San Nicola
In German it is Sankt Niklaus
And in Belgium he is Sinterklaas
Say either of these last two out loud, slowly
A half step more and you see how we get to the not entirely mythical Santa Claus.
I love the way the story of Santa Claus has grown and changed through the years to represent the joy of giving gifts. He is a generous, benevolent spirit, a bright warm light on a cold winter night. Santa Claus is the man who helps children feel loved.
I remember when I taught at a Catholic school, on his feast day, December 6th, all of the students would place one shoe in the hall and we would close the door. The nuns would sneak around and put candy in everyones shoes. It was years later before I realized that this tradition goes back several hundred years to France, when nuns would place treats in the shoes of poor children in their village to honor the benevolent Saint Nicolas.
And Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He lives in the hearts of everyone who believes.
So, let me ask:
If the manger is a place where we come to lay our gifts before our Lord, why not invite the patron saint of gifts to a place of honor in your nativity this winter? Santa Claus kneeling with a small child is way to welcome all the children in your life to special place in the manger.
Brian "Fox" Ellis · Fox Tales International