Friday, December 5, 2014

Good old Saint Nick

Yes indeed. There certainly was a Saint Nicholas. It's not like the Santa Claus that most Americans know and associate with Christmas. Also called Nikolaos of Myra, the 4th-century Christian saint whom we celebrate tomorrow was a bishop of the church and also a giver of presents. Well in his case it was usually coins, but there are a lot of customs that grew in his memory.

Now most of us in the US think of Saint Nick and Christmas, but in many parts of the world, there is a separate celebration today.  Americans who keep the feast today most likely think of it only as a church commemoration.

Good reason for remembering him. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children, students, archers, sailors, pawnbrokers, pharmacists, merchants, repentant thieves, and various churches, institutions, cities, and countries. Church-goers may find it interesting that he was one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed. I'm not certain why but he is also the patron of broadcasters.

There are numerous legends surrounding him including my favorite one about three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens. In the tale, a wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered the students, hiding their bodies in a large pickling tub. Bishop Nicholas it seems was traveling along the same route and stopped at the very same inn. While sleeping, he dreamt of the crime, got up, and called out to the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed to God, the three students were restored to life and wholeness.

His name in Dutch, Sinterklaas, is where we got the name Santa Claus, but that is another story.

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