The Feast of St. Nicholas

Eternal God,
in your great love
you gave your servant NICHOLAS
a perpetual name for deeds of kindness on land and sea.
Grant that your Church may never cease to work
for the happiness of children,
the safety of sailors,
the relief of the poor
and the help of those who are tossed
by tempests of doubt or grief;
through JESUS CHRIST our LORD,
who lives and reigns with you and the HOLY SPIRIT,
one GOD, now and for ever.

St. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints in the world – and likely the most well-known.  Probably, he is known better as elf called Santa Claus or Father Christmas. Less well-known is that he was a bishop in Turkey and documents place him at the scene of the Council of Nicea.

All reports say that he was on the ‘orthodox’ side (of course he would be!) and legend has it that he was so disgruntled with Arius’s lies about Jesus that St. Nicholas actually hit him in the face! No doubt tensions ran high at the Council of Nicea, but we have no way of knowing the truth of that story.

Still, there are many more worthwhile stories that give rise to why we associate St. Nicholas with a much more charitable nature. He saved three young girls from a life of prostitution by throwing money into their window late at night.  That way they would have a dowry and therefore eligible for marriage. Supposedly, the money fell into their stockings or shoes.

This story and others can be found at the St. Nicholas Centre and the St. Nicholas Society.  Also there you will find ways to celebrate the day, some that include taking the focus of receiving gifts off of ourselves and calling us to give to others. It takes us away from the jolly elf who wants to give us everything we want and places the story back into a Christian framework of what it means to truly give.

The traditions surrounding St. Nicholas have changed and vary from country to country. I came across this reading from one of my favourite humourists, David Sedaris. In his essay called ‘Six to Eight Black Men’, Sedaris talks of his encounter with the Dutch understanding of St. Nicholas and his horror that the former bishop of Turkey will kick children.

A full version can be found in three parts here:  Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. A print version can be found here.


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