is the most popular
Greek Orthodox Saint,
equivalent to St. Peter in Roman Catholic tradition.
Greek Orthodox traditions tells of
being born around AD 280, the only child of a wealthy, elderly couple who lived in Patara, Asia Minor (present-day Turkey).
When his parents died in a plague,
inherited their wealth.
generously gave to the poor, but did it anonymously as he wanted the glory to go to God.
This was the beginning of an early pietist-monastic movement where Christians would give away all their money and live in a cave or join a monastery.
One notable incident during this time in Nicholas' life occurred when a
in his town had gone
threatened to take, not only the merchants' house and property,
but also his children.
The merchant had
. He knew if they were taken it would probably mean a life of sex-trafficking, prostitution or forced marriages.
The merchant had the idea of
quickly marrying his daughters off
so the creditors could not take them.
he did not have money for a dowry
, which was needed in that area of the world for a legally recognized wedding.
heard of the merchant's dilemma and, late one night,
threw a bag of money in the window
for the oldest daughter's dowry.
the bag of money
landed in a
shoe or a stocking
that was drying by the
It was the talk of the town when the first daughter got married.
then threw a bag of money in the window for the
and she was able to get married.
Expecting money his
, the merchant waited up.
threw the money in, the father ran outside and caught him.
promise not to tell where the money came from, as he wanted the credit to go to God alone.
This was the origin of hanging stockings by the fireplace, and the
secret, midnight gift-giving
on the anniversary of
' death, which was
DECEMBER 6, 343 AD.
three bags of money
which Nicholas threw into the house are remembered by the
three gold balls
hung outside a pawnbrokers shop--as they present themselves as rescuing families in their time of financial need.
Some later referred to Nicholas as the "patron saint" of pawnbrokers.
After giving away all his money,
intended to join the Monastery of Sion in the Holy Land.
He left on a
pilgrimage, first visiting the birthplace of Jesus.
Mark Twain wrote in
visiting the Church of the Nativity:
"This spot where the very first 'Merry Christmas!' was uttered in all the world,
and from whence the friend of my childhood, Santa Claus, departed on his first journey,
to gladden and continue to gladden roaring firesides on wintry mornings in many a distant land forever and forever."
considered joining the secluded Monastery of Sion, the Lord somehow impressed upon him "not to hide his light under a bushel."
He returned to Asia Minor, to a busy Mediterranean port city on the southern coast.
Unbeknownst to him, the bishop had just died and the church leaders could not decide on who was to be the next bishop.
After one church leader had a dream, they approached Nicholas, who was hesitant to accept, as the Roman Emperor was arresting bishops and killing them.
He finally relented and became the
Bishop of Myra
Soon, Nicholas was
persecution of Christians,
as he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
was freed when
ended Rome's three century long persecution of Christians.
When the first major heresy--the
--began to split the Christian Church, Constantine ordered all the bishops to go to
to settle it, which they did by writing the
The tradition is that
Council of Nicea
and was so upset at
for starting this heresy that
he slapped him across the face.
Evidently, Jolly Old St. Nick had a little temper!
preached against the sexual immorality
Diana fertility worship
, as did the
according to the
Book of Acts, chapter 19.
Temple to Diana
at Ephesus was one of the
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
, twice as big as the Parthenon in Athens, having 127 huge pillars--and
It was the Las Vegas of the Mediterranean world.
led the people of Myra to
tear down their local temple to Diana.
Shortly after, from the preaching of
St. John Chrysostom
, Archbishop of Constantinople (AD 397-403), the people tore down the enormous temple to
Diana at Ephesus.
confronted dishonest government politicians.
One story was of a
who had falsely accused and was about to execute some innocent soldiers in order to cover up his immoral acts.
broke through the crowd, grabbed the executioner's sword, threw it down. He then publicly revealed, by divine insight, the governor's evil plot.
The Governor, realizing that
had no way of knowing the details except by insight from God, fell on his knees and begged Nicholas to pray for him.
Greek Orthodox tradition attributes many
Once a storm was so bad that fishermen and sailors were not able to get back to shore.
The people asked
to pray and the sea became calm enough for the fishermen and sailors to return safely to port.
This led to
later being considered the "patron saint" of sailors.
There Really is a Santa Claus-The History of Saint Nicholas & Christmas Holiday Traditions
In the 5th century a church was built in Myra in his honor.
It was damaged in an earthquake in AD 529, after which
Vladimir the Great of Russia
converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity and adopted Nicholas as the
"patron saint" of Russia
In the 11th century,
Muslim jihad terrorists, the Seljuks Turks,
invaded Asia Minor,
killing Christians, destroying churches and digging up the bones of Christian saints and desecrating them
Hadith Sahih Muslim (Book 4, No. 2115) states: "Do not leave an image without obliterating it, or a high grave without leveling it."
For protection, Christians shipped the remains of
to a church in the town of
in southern Italy in the year 1087.
Pope Urban II
dedicated the church, naming it after St. Nicholas--the
Basilica di San Nicola
, thus introducing this
Greek St. Nicholas
to Western Europe.
So many Christians were fleeing the Muslim invasion of Eastern Europe that
Pope Urban II
went to the Council of Claremont in 1095 and called upon European leaders to send help.
Help was sent help--it was called the
In a backwards sense, Western Europe might not have had St. Nicholas traditions if it had not been for Islamic jihadist invading Eastern Europe.
St. Nicholas' remains in Italy, western Europeans quickly embraced the gift-giving traditions associated with him.
By 1223, so much attention was being given to gift-giving during the Christmas season, that
Saint Francis of Assisi
wanted to refocus the attention to the birth of Christ.
St. Francis created
the first creche
a humble manger of farm animals with the focus being on
baby Jesus--the Son of God come to dwell among men: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
, which effectively ended "saints days," including the popular
"St. Nicholas Day,"
as these days were considered distractions from Christ.
Since Germans like the gift-giving,
moved the giving to December 25th to emphasize that
all gifts come from the Christ Child.
The German pronunciation of
which over the centuries got pronounced
As Roman Catholics say St. Peter is at the Gates of Heaven, a Greek Orthodox tradition developed from the prophecy that
Jesus would return at the end of the world
to judge the living and the dead,
riding a white horse,
saints would return with him, riding white horses.
Revelation 19:11-16 "And I saw heaven opened, and behold
a white horse;
and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
And he was clothed with
a vesture dipped in blood:
and his name is called
The Word of God
... And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written,
King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords."
Revelation 19:14 added:
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses,
clothed in fine linen, white and clean."
was a saint, the reasoning is that he would certainly be one of multitude
returning with Jesus, riding a white horse.
The Greeks embellished it with
once a year
for a sort of mini
to check up on the children to see if they are on the right track.
Over the centuries, the story evolved.
In Norway there were no horses, so they have
riding a reindeer.
Saints came heaven, the New Jerusalem, the
--which turned into the
Lamb's Book of Life
Book of Works
turned into the
Book of the "naughty and nice."
reign, Christmas celebrations in England became sort of a Mardi Gras--a time of partying and carousing.
took over England, they outlawed Christmas as too worldly.
settled Massachusetts, they had a
five shilling fine
for anyone caught celebrating Christmas.
Rev. Cotton Mather
(1663-1728), told his congregation, December 25, 1712:
"Can you in your Conscience think, that our Holy Savior is honored, by Mad Mirth, by long Eating, by hard Drinking, by lewd Gaming, by rude Reveling; by a Mass fit for none but a Saturn or a Bacchus, or the Night of a Mahometan Ramadan? You cannot possibly think so!"
loved Christmas and
St. Nicholas traditions.
The Dutch had
coming once a year to give presents to good children.
He was accompanied by a
Moorish costumed helper
who would put
to take back to Spain where they would be
sold into Muslim slavery.
, which became
which became pronounced
Living in New York was
the author of
Legend of Sleepy Hallow
Rip Van Winkle.
He coined the name for New York as "Gotham City."
Diedrich Knickerbocker's A History of New York,
1809, in which he described
St. Nicholas no longer wearing a bishop's outfit, but a typical
Dutch outfit of long-trunk hose, leather belt, boots and a stocking hat.
was an Episcopal priest and Hebrew professor at
General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in New York City.
His family's land is now the New York neighborhood of Chelsea, where a
Clement Clarke Moore Park
is located at 10th Ave. and 22nd St.
wrote a poem for his six children titled
"A Visit From St. Nicholas"
'TWAS the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung
by the chimney with care,
In hopes that
soon would be there ..."
"When, what to my wondering
eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh,
and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver,
so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment
it must be
ST. NICK ..."
"So up to the house-top
the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys,
"As I drew in my head,
and was turning around,
Down the chimney
came with a bound ..."
"He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself."
Harper's Weekly Magazine
had an illustrator named
, who drew
, who was famous for inventing the
in his political cartoons, was the first artist to put a
subtle jab against the South during the Civil War.
Coca Cola hired artist Haddon Sundblom,
famous for his
Quaker Oats man
, to create a painting every year of "
Jolly Old St. Nick"
Though many additions have been added on, there really was a godly, courageous Bishop in 4th century Asia Minor named
-loved Jesus enough go into the ministry,
-was imprisoned for his faith by the Romans,
-stood for the doctrine of the Trinity,
-preached against sexually immoral pagan temples,
-confronted corrupt politicians, and
-was very generous, giving to the poor in their time of need!
To find out much more get the fascinating book:
Invite Bill Federer to speak: email@example.com 314-502-8924