Santa Claus | St.Nicholas of Ban
Few things are known for certain about Santa Claus. According to the legends Santa Claus is none other than St Nicholas of Ban, Italy. He was born of wealthy parents. Named bishop of Myra, a city on the Mediterranean coast of present Turkey, he excelled in his holiness, charity and miracles. He was imprisoned for his faith during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian, but was freed by the edict of Constantine (c.313) and is known to have attended the great Nicaean Council I (c.325). His legend recounts how, on returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he came to Myra and early the next morning went to the church.
The local bishop having just recently died, the clergy had secretly agreed that the first person to enter the church that morning would become the new bishop; and so Nicholas was consecrated bishop of Myra. He died about the year 325. To those few facts are added the colourful legends which have made him a favourite of young and old alike for centuries. Among the stories most often told about Nicholas is the account of the three sisters whose family lost its wealth. To keep the girls from having to turn to prostitutiofl Nicholas, on three separate occasions, tossed a bag of gold through the window.
This money became a dowry for each of the girls, and saved the family from ruin. After his death, the Myra Christians honoured his memory by leaving surprise gifts for their children by their bedside during the night before his anniversary. This tradition gradually got transferred to Christmas, and ‘Saint Nicholas’ has in popular parlance become corrupted to ‘Santa Claus’! The custom of giving gifts to children in St Nicholas’ name on Christmas Eve originated in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands and later spread around the Christian world.