A statue of Saint Nicholas in Myra, Turkey.
December 5 is Saint Nicholas’ Day. He was the original Father Christmas whom we call Santa Claus today.
The real St. Nicholas, a Christian bishop, lived in the 4th century in Myra, a town in Turkey. He died in 343 on December 5.
(Photo taken from Santa Are you for Real? by Harold Myra, published by Thomas Nelson Inc., c1977.)
St. Nicholas is the “Santa Claus” of Sir Clement Moore’s poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
My uncle, who was a missionary in Germany for many years, celebrated St. Nicholas Day with his children. As I understand the tradition, children would put out their shoes on the eve of St. Nicholas Day — December 5. In the morning, if they had been good children, they would receive candy in their shoes. If they had been not-so-good, they would receive coal. One year, my uncle played a trick on his kids and put coal in their shoes. In the morning, that was soon replaced with candy. What a trickster!
St. Nicholas is the originator of giving gifts anonymously. In one of the favorite stories told about him involves a poor man with three daughters who wanted to marry. But, in those days, the bride’s father had to give a dowry to the young man who wanted to marry his daughter. Without the money, marrying a decent man was not possible. St. Nicholas knew of this situation and tossed a bag of money into the father’s home for the first daughter’s marriage, and later for the second daughter. When it was time to marry off the third daughter, the father stayed awake to learn who their benefactor was. He caught Bishop Nicholas and thanked him profusely. The Bishop begged the father to not give away his secret. The father kept the secret for a long time, but he must have eventually shared the secret, since we know the story today.
Wouldn’t it be fun to secretly give a gift to someone in need this year?
Myra, Harold. Santa Are You For Real?