Feast Day : December 6
Patronage: bakers; boys; brewers; brides; children; coopers; dockworkers; mariners; merchants; pawnbrokers; spinsters; travelers; Greece; Russia; Naples; Sicily; Lorraine, France; the diocese of Liege; Campen, Netherlands; Corfu, Greece; Freiburg, Switzerland; Moscow, Russia; and many other cities in Italy, Germany, Austria and Belgium
Also known as: Nicholas of Myra, Nicholas of Bari
The only certainty about Nicholas’s life is that he lived in the fourth century and was bishop of Myra in Lycia. Legends grew up around him, making him one of the most popular saints in both Western and Eastern churches. Tradition holds that he was born in Parara, Asia Minor, and went to Egypt and Palestine on pilgrimages when young. After he became bishop of Myra, he was jailed during the Diocletian persecutions, and was released after Constantine the Great became emperor in 324. Nicholas died sometime between 345 and 352 and was buried in Myra. Saracens took Myra in 1034, and several Italian cities competed for securing the saint’s relics. On May 9, 1087, they were translated to Bari and enshrined. Immediately many miracles of healing were reported. While still in Myra, Nicholas’s bones were discovered to exude an oil or manna. According to an anonymous 13th-century account of the translation to Bari, a considerable quantity of this oil was found with the relics. The oil has been observed to exude from the pores of the bone and to collect and drip. It is collected in ampules. The oil has stopped four times: in 887, when a legitimate successor to Nicholas was expelled from office; in 1086, the year before the relics were moved; from 1916 to 1917, during World War I; and from 1953 to 1957, when the basilica was being restored. It started again when the relics were restored to the basilica, then stopped and then resumed on April 10, 1961. The oil has been examined scientifically, and has been determined not to come from water or humidity. Nicholas became the progenitor of Santa Claus, perhaps from the legend about his generosity in gift-giving. Tradition holds that he secretly provided the dowries of three young women by throwing bags of gold through their father’s open window (another version says that he saved three young women from prostitution by throwing bags of gold through their windows). Much later, Nicholas became identified with Father Christmas and Santa Claus. Gift-giving on his feast day, December 6, is still a tradition is some countries.