Who is Santa Claus?

"Santa Claus in his sleigh"

Santa Claus, the modern figure of the wonder worker, Saint Nicholas. [Photo credits: Pixabay]

Children often ask their parents: who is Santa Claus? Some may have the correct answer for them, whereas others mistakenly think Santa Claus is the bearded, jolly men we often see in TV commercials. And yet, the legend of Santa Claus was inspired by the figure of a real person: Nikolaos of Myra.

Nikolaos of Myra was a Greek Bishop who lived in the 4th Century in Myra, the region where Turkey is at present. According to the legend, Saint Nicholas was a rich man because he became orphan at an early age inheriting his parents’ possessions.

His higher status did not make St. Nicholas indifferent to the needs of the poor. He was very kind, especially with the children and there are many stories and legends to prove his generosity. There is, however, one particular story which relates Saint Nicholas to the beginnings of the history of Santa Claus and explains who is Santa Claus.

There was once a poor man, who had three daughters, but could not marry them because he could not pay the dowry. The poor man was thinking to prostitute his three daughters, so they could make a living, but Saint Nicholas was quick to lend them a helping hand.

One night, the oldest of the three daughters hang her stockings by the fireplace to dry. Saint Nicholas secretly climbed the horn of their house and dropped a bag of gold down the chimney. The bag fell in one of the stockings and the girl was then able to get married.

Intended to find out the name of his benefactor, the poor man asked his second and his third daughter to hang her stockings by the fireplace, too. As Saint Nicholas was getting ready to drop the last bag down the chimney, the poor man caught him. Saint Nicholas asked him to keep his name secret because he did not want people to know that he was making secret gifts.

Nicholas of Myra led a highly spiritual life and was, therefore, sanctified after his death. His name is often mentioned in relation to sailing miracles. The most relevant evidence of Saint Nicholas’ miraculous powers is the story of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Saint had a premonitory dream as he was sailing and warned sailors that there is a dreadful storm coming their way.

As soon as he warned them, the winds grew strong and the waves became so high that sailors feared for their lives. Saint Nicholas prayed for the storm to quiet and the skies became clear again.

Although he tried to keep his identity secret, Saint Nicholas was soon known as a secret gift-giver, so many poor people left their shoes out for him, when they needed help. The Saint left money for those who truly needed it and admonished those, who only looked for money.

These stories have gradually shaped the reputation of Saint Nicholas as a wonder worker. During the 13th Century, his legend arrives in Denmark, where the Saint is called “Sinterklaas”. The term was brought to America by Dutch immigrants, whose celebrations of “Sinterklaas” have contributed to the image of Santa Claus as we know him today.

"Saint Nicholas bringing gifts to children"

Saint Nicholas, the benefactor and protector of all children. [Photo credits: Tumblr]

Beyond the history of Santa Claus and the answer to the question who is Santa Claus? there is one fact we should not overlook. Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas was a real person, in the flesh, proving human beings don’t need super powers to accomplish miracles. We can all be Santa Claus as long as we agree to help those in need and to lead a righteous life.

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