Jolly Ol' Saint Nicholas: The Historical Person Behind Santa Claus. - Blog! - Two-Fisted History


Jolly Ol' Saint Nicholas:
The Historical Person Behind
Santa Claus.

For many, Santa Claus is a kindly, portly old man who shows up on 25 December and brings presents to all the good little boys and girls.  What’s the true skinny on this portly elf?

Saint Nicholas was born in 280 AD in the city of Patara in Asia Minor. . . what today we call Turkey. St. Nick was a Greek! His parents were quite rich, and raised him to be a good Christian.  He was raised by his uncle, who happened to be the Bishop of Patara, and he gave away most of his inheritance.

One time there was this one guy who lived in Patara who had lost all his money, and had three daughters to support who could not find husbands because of their poverty.   The man was ready to sell them into prostitution.

Young Nicholas caught wind of this.  He took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness, threw it in at the open window of the man's house.  Some people said that he threw it down their chimney! The oldest girl now had a dowry and was soon married.   Nicholas did the same thing for the second and third daughters, too.   During the last time, the father was on the lookout for the mysterious stranger.  He recognized his mysterious pat and overwhelmed him with his gratefulness.

When Nick was a teenager, he wanted to be even more holy.  He decided to make a pilgrimage to Egypt and the Holy Land. The Holy Land is what we call today Israel and Palestine When he returned home he felt called to become a priest and was soon ordained.  He spent time at the Monastery of Holy Zion near Myra until an old priest had a vision that he was to be the new bishop.  The people of Myra elected him overwhelmingly as bishop.  Nicholas became known for his holiness, zeal, and passion for the gospel. He challenged paganism at the temple to Artemis, the main temple in his district.   Supposedly the evil spirits ‘fled howling before him.’

Paganism wasn’t going to go away without a fight, though.  In 303, Rome was run by the Emperor Diocletian began another purge of Christians.  Since Nicholas was the chief priest of Myra and preached He was called a 'Confessor' because he never denied his Faith - even when tortured!his religion vocally, he was arrested by the government, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians.  He was released ten years later when the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which legalized Christianity. 

One of the most important things that St. Nicholas did was to participate in the Council of Nicea and combat Arianism.  Arianism was a heresy that stated that Jesus was an entirely different person than God the Father.   At the Council of Nicea, a Church Council 325 that was called to establish the nature of Jesus and God, St. Nicholas vigorously defended the idea on consubstantiality. That means the God and Jesus are one being.  The story goes that he got into a heated debate with Arius himself about whether there was a time when the Jesus did not exist. Nicholas strongly disagreed.  Nicholas ended the debate abruptly when he punched Arius in the face right there on the floor of the Council!  (‘I came here’ meme.  Link to CatholicMeme).

It gives a whole new meaning to, ‘You better be good for goodness sake for Santa Claus comes tonight.’

I came here to give presents and punch heretics, and I just ran out of presents.

<< Go back to the previous page

Tags : History Rome Religion

Resources for Social Studies Students & Teachers