by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Santa Claus is a legend loved by millions of children throughout the centuries. While the story of Santa Claus is a myth told to illustrate the spirit of giving at Christmastime, there was a real man named Saint Nicholas.
Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara. When he was born, Patara was a part of Greece. Now it’s located in Turkey. His parents were rich and raised him to be a Christian, but they died when he was young.
He used up his inheritance caring for the needy, the sick, and the suffering. When he was a little still a young man, he was appointed as bishop of Myra and became well known for his generosity to the needy, his love of children, and his care for sailors.
One story tells about three dowerless girls. In that time, girls whose fathers were too poor to provide dowries often had to be sold into slavery. On these three occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home providing enough for the dowries. People suspected Saint Nicholas of leaving the gifts. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
The Roman Emperor, Diocletian, persecuted the church. Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned in a prison that was so full of Christians, it didn’t have room for criminals. Eventually he was released and returned to Myra and attended the council of Nicaea in 625.
Nicholas died on December 6, 643. A substance grew on his grave called manna that was reported to heal people. Since then, December 6 has been known as Saint Nicholas Day.