Saint Nicholas

St. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor. When he was ordained into the priesthood the young Nicholas gave away all his possessions to the poor and entered a monastery where he later became Abbot. He went on to become Bishop of Mira and was among those who signed the document affirming the divinity of Christ at the Council of Nicea (325). During the persecution of Diocletian he was imprisoned for his beliefs and made a glorious confession of the faith.

He became famous for his extraordinary kindness, piety and zeal and an incredible number of stupendous miracles. A citizen of Patara had lost all his money and had to support 3 daughters, who could not find husbands because of their poverty, the father was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the attention of Nicholas, who took a bag of gold and under cover of darkness, threw it in the open window of the man’s house. It was used as a dowry for the eldest girl and she was soon married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the 2nd and 3rd daughters. On the last occasion the father kept watch to capture his benefactor, on recognising Nicholas he overwhelmed him with his gratitude. According to legend Nicholas left the gold coins in a stocking hanging by the fireplace, hence the tradition that we remember each Christmas.

In the 9th century the folklore of Northern Germany made St Nicholas the Weihnachtsmann, the man of Christmas Eve; in the Anglo-Saxon world he is honored as “Santa Claus” (the name for Nicholas in German is Klaus). In the 11th century the custom originated in distributing sweets on the eve of the feast of St Nicholas.

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