The History of Good Ole’ Saint Nick

Santa Claus is an iconic December image for most western cultures. This jolly old man has been a personification for holiday spirit and good tidings for many years, but who was the original Santa Claus?
Saint Nicholas or Nikolaos of Myra, Turkey, was a Greek Bishop who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Nikolas was granted the name Nikolaos the Wonderworker due to the many miracles credited to his intercession.
The saint has many stories associated with his name which is why Santa is portrayed today as a giver of gifts.
Saint Nikolas is painted as a generous man who placed gold coins in shoes of poor strangers at night. A very specific story recounts the saint hearing of a poor man who had three daughters whose dowries he couldn’t pay. Because of the lack of cash, the daughters would likely have been unable to marry and potentially forced into prostitution. Each year when a daughter turned of age, Nikolas placed a bag of gold in the man’s house for a dowry. Apparently, the night the third daughter came of age, the father planned to find out who was giving the family money. Nikolaos learned of the man’s plan and dropped the purse down the chimney instead. The youngest daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them near the embers to dry, and the bag of gold was found in one of stockings the next morning.
This story has changed over the centuries, and now Saint Nik is seen as a lovable giver of presents during the holidays.

– Tryniti Smith
Bison Run ALA