Today the Church celebrates the feast of the much-loved saint from whom we get the inspiration for Santa Claus.
Who was Saint Nicholas?
Born during the third century in the port city of Patara on the southern coast of what is now Turkey, Nicholas was orphaned at an early age when his wealthy Christian parents died in an epidemic. It is said that he was raised by his uncle who was the bishop in Patara. Nicholas used his inheritance to help the sick, poor, and suffering. Dedicating his life to the service of God and Church, Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra and became known for his love for children and generosity to those in need. He also had a special care for sailors and prisoners.
Many legends have been shared through the ages to illustrate Bishop Nicholas’ good will and generosity. The most famous speaks of a poor widower who did not have money for a dowry for his three daughters. Nicholas helped the man by dropping a bag of gold on three separate nights through his window or smokestack, enabling the man to marry off his daughters and avoiding a life of slavery.
One version of the story has the widower catching Nicholas in his act of generosity on the third day and asking why he shared his wealth in secret without allowing the man to offer his thanks. Nicholas told him that it is good to give and have only God know about it.
Bishop Nicholas was imprisoned during the persecution of Roman Emperor Diocletian. He was later released when Emperor Constantine came into power, and continued to spread his good will among the people. He frequently gave gifts of candy and small toys to the local children. He is said to have attended the famous Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.
Nicholas died on December 6 circa the year 343, and his feast has long been observed on this Advent date. He is the patron saint of children, as well as sailors and prisoners. He is also honored with Saint Andrew as patrons of Russia.
The legend of Santa Claus has developed from stories of Saint Nicholas’ good will and kind generosity, and has been adapted to many cultures over the centuries.
Random Memories of Saint Nicholas Day Past:
There has been much devotion through the ages for this much-loved saint and bishop of the early Church. Many cultures find their children putting out shoes the night before the feast day for Saint Nicholas to fill with candy, rather than the dreaded lumps of coal.
There are lots of memories…
Back when my children were little, one of our Abingdon neighbors dressed up as Santa Claus every December 6 and delivered homemade Santa Christmas cookies.
When George and I were first married, my neighbors used to go caroling in the evening around our neighborhood in Bel Air. Our neighbor Lou, God rest him now, always dressed up as the Bishop Saint Nicholas.
I also recall fondly the year that my last Junior Retreat fell on this date and I filled the juniors’ shoes with candy in the middle of the night at the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House.
Such fun memories…
It is nice to have the opportunity to share some of the Saint Nicholas memories and let his legacy of faith-filled good will and generosity live on today. Since he always did his charitable deeds in secret, maybe we could also do hidden acts of kindness in imitation of this much-loved saint.
The baking of Christmas cookies is very popular on this feast day. The Saint Nicholas Center shares two dozen yummy recipes for Christmas cookies from around the world on their website. Check it out and see if any of their suggestions will become a new family favorite in your house!!
A Fun Sugar Cookie Recipe:
Today I share an easy sugar cookie recipe which is perfect for getting your kids and grandkids involved in using their favorite cookie cutters to imprint the image of Saint Nick and other Christmas favorites.
The Saint Nicholas Center offers seven custom cookie cutters with simple (miter, the bishop’s hat) to complicated designs (full bishop) for the good saint.
- 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter or margarine
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Sift together first 3 ingredients.
2. Cream butter or margarine; slowly stir in sugar; beat until well blended.
3. Add eggs, one at a time; beat well.
4. Stir in vanilla.
5. Stir in flour mixture, mixing well.
6. Cover dough; chill until firm enough to roll out.
7. On a floured board, roll out dough, a little at a time, 1/4 inch thick.
8. Cut out cookies with a floured Saint Nicholas (or Santa Claus) cookie cutter.
9. Place on greased cookie sheets.
10. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until golden.
11. Remove from sheets; cool on wire racks.
12. Decorate with icing, colored sugar, and small chocolate chips for the eyes.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Saint Nicholas Center Photos
Dear God, We thank you for good Saint Nicholas who was known for his love and care for children.
Through his intercession, we ask you to help us always to take care of children, to protect and guide them, and to keep them safe.
Help us to be open to all that children can teach us about pure joy and unconditional love.
May we, in turn, help the children in our families to grow into the beautiful persons that you created them to be.
Keep us mindful of the needs of others and to reach out with love and generosity as Saint Nicholas did.
We rejoice in your servant Nicholas and pray that we too may follow you with singleness of heart and mind.