The real St. Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ word to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals – murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. He died December 6, A.D. 343, in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, the anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day.
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
Why celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas?
- To tell the story of a Christian, whose model life inspires compassion and charity
- To reveal the true identity of Santa Claus and Father Christmas
- To focus on giving more than on receiving
- To emphasize small treats and family fun
- To provide a bit of special festivity early in the waiting weeks of Advent
- To explain the spiritual dimension of gift giving
- To help keep Jesus the center of Christmas
Saint Nicholas loved children and cared for the needy. He brings the love of Christ and the healing of Jesus. We honor this saint by following his example of selflessness.