St. Nicholas Day is celebrated worldwide on the anniversary of his death, December 6th. Raised as a devout Christian, the third-century saint dedicated his life to serving the sick and suffering.
Later, he became part of the inspiration for the modern-day Santa Claus.
Here are ten interesting facts about St. Nicholas:
1. Born in the village of Patar on the southeastern coast of modern-day Turkey, Nicholas was inspired by the philanthropy of his parents. During their short lifetimes, they were devoted to serving the sick. Nicholas decided to continue their legacy. He began delivering gifts anonymously to needy people.
2. According to legend, three falsely accused men were about to be beheaded when Bishop Nicholas took the sword from the executioner’s hand. He then ordered the men to be freed. Afterward, the city’s ruler came forward and confessed to the crime.
3. Another well-known story…He saved three impoverished sisters from being sold into prostitution by paying their marriage dowries with three bags of gold.
4. During the Middle Ages, a group of French nuns started the tradition of bringing anonymous gifts to needy families on December 5th (St. Nicholas Eve). When the families awoke the following day and inquired about their benefactor, they received the following answer: “It must have been St. Nicholas.”
5. In Germany and Austria, children left out a boot for St. Nicholas and received small toys, coins, or candy.
6. After the Reformation, St. Nicholas was largely forgotten in Protestant Europe. Still, his memory was kept alive in Holland as Sinterklaas. On his feast day, St. Nicholas arrives on horseback, dressed in a bishop’s red robe, accompanied by a companion. The two men distributed sweets and gifts to good children and lumps of coal to bad ones.
7. The Dutch brought the tradition of “Sinterklaas” to North America when they founded New Amsterdam on the tip of Manhattan in 1621. English-speaking settlers corrupted the name, which evolved into Santa Claus.
8. After he was buried in a tomb near Myra, water believed to have healing powers formed in his grave. It is called the Manna of St. Nicholas.
9. He is the patron saint of many causes, among them sailors, travelers, clergy, school children, and thieves.
10. St. Nicholas Day traditions can be easily incorporated into the contemporary holiday season. Why not slip a small gift or surprise into a friend’s shoe or boot. Some suggestions: wrapped chocolate, a tree ornament, a stress ball, or a new pair of socks.