In our Catholic faith, across the world and in numerous cultures, Dec. 6 is celebrated as the feast of St. Nicholas. The “real” Santa Claus was a remarkable man of the 4th century. He became a saint of the Roman Catholic faith long before specific canonization dates were recorded by the Church. His sainthood was based on what he accomplished in the name of Jesus Christ during his lifetime.
How did St. Nicholas become known as Santa Claus?
He was orphaned in childhood but was determined to devote his large inheritance to works of charity.
This account comes from the website Catholic Online: A citizen in Patara where Nicholas was serving as a priest, lost all of his money and needed to support his three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. Nicholas was informed of the situation and took a bag of gold and threw it into an open window of the man’s house in the night. This served as a dowry for the eldest first daughter and she was soon duly married. At two other times, Nicholas did the same for the second and the third daughters and the last time the father was on the watch, recognized his benefactor and overwhelmed Nicholas with his gratitude.
There are dozens of other stories of St. Nicholas’ charity and miracles attributed to him.
He is also the patron saint of sailors, children and the country of Russia.
St. Nicholas was popularized in America by Dutch Protestants of New Amsterdam who converted the saint into a Nordic magician — Santa Claus — who offered gifts to children.
Here in the United States, cities — particularly those with strong German influences — still celebrate the feast day with the ancient practice of putting shoes outside bedroom doors or hanging an empty stocking by the fireplace on the evening of Dec. 5. St. Nicholas comes during the night. On the morning of Dec. 6, recipients find their shoes or stockings filled with gifts and sugary treats.
St. Nicholas remains a saint who is recognized worldwide. Have a happy St. Nicholas feast day!