The Real St. Nicholas
St Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara in Asia Minor, now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while he was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words 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 as a young man.
As Bishop of Myra, Nicholas’s vigorous actions on behalf of his people and in defense of the Christian faith reveal a man who lived his convictions. Nicholas was not timid—he did what was necessary and was not easily intimidated by others’ power and position. His concern for the welfare of his flock and his stand for orthodox belief earned him respect as a model for bishops and a defender of the faith.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., where more than 300 bishops from all over the Christian world attended. During one debate about Christianity, when Arias from Egypt said that Jesus was not equal to God the Father, Nicholas slapped him in the face, was brought before Constantine, stripped of his office, and thrown into prison.
As the legend of St, Nicholas grew in Europe, it was inevitable that his legend would come to the land of opportunity, the United States. Over time, with the creative genius of men such as Clement Moore, Washington Irving, Thomas Nast, Norman Rockwell, Haddon Sundblom, and many actors in Hollywood, St. Nicholas took the persona of the Santa Claus we know today. Although he has changed in appearance, the Christian ideals of St. Nicholas: peace, love, joy, and benevolence are alive today in Santa Claus.
I believe that whether I visit with folks as Black Hills Santa or St Nicholas it is my responsibility to carry forth
the faith and Christian ideals that St Nicholas himself exhibited. Jesus said, “How blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted”(Matt 5:4); “How blessed are those who show mercy…”(Matt 5:7); “Let the children come to me, don’t stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these”(Matt 19:14).