Orthodox Icon of Saint Nicholas
courtesy of Saint Nicholas Center
Pope John Paul II loved children
Friend of Israel
The Real Santa Claus
Known around the world as Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, and other regional aliases, his most common name, Santa Claus, is derived from his title, Saint Nicholas. Yes, Santa is a real historical man. His life was a service to Christ, and his memory illuminates Christ in the world for all time, especially at Christmas. Nicholas was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Story of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra
Saint Nicholas was born around 270 anno Domini, in Patara, in Greco-Roman Lycia, an area now part of modern-day Muslim Turkey. He spent most of his life at Myra, now called Demre, Antalyain the warm climate of the southwest coast, where the Church of St. Nikolay stands to this day.
He was born to wealthy and pious parents, both well past child bearing age. It is said that they prayed to God for a child in their advanced age, and dedicated this child to the service of God. Hence the legend of the miraculous birth of the baby son they named Nikolay. They both died while Nikolay was yet young, leaving him a small fortune, to be raised by the Church.
Rising quickly through the ranks of the priesthood, Nicholas held the post of Bishop of Myra for most of his life. As Bishop of Myra, the charismatic and humble Nicholas participated in the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, which produced the Nicean Creed and debated many of the primary canons. A popular story reports that the normally jolly exuberant became rarely overcome by anger, crossed the floor, and slapped Arius, a fellow theologian, in defence of the doctrine of the deity of Jesus the Christ — yes Santa pointed always to Jesus. Though seen as a secular icon today, Saint Nicholas is in fact revered as a patron and father of Orthodox faith.
The face of the real Santa Claus,
forensic reconstruction from the bishop's skull
A model Bishop, Nicholas physically intervened to save the lives of the condemned. According to one famous story, he saved three impoverished maidens from a life of prostitution, by anonymously providing them with dowries, permitting them to marry.
Children See Christ, and the Love is Mutual
Like Jesus, and John Paul the Great, Nicholas took particular joy in children, they set his face ablaze, and his whole life embraced them. A magnanimous champion of children and selfless generosity, Nicholas was a genuine Christian who loved his neighbours, especially the poor and vulnerable, young and old.
The Christ Life Proclaims and Testifies to the Gospel
The Bishop is reputed to have had great compassion for the under-privileged. He would anonymously bestow generous personal gifts where they would make a difference in the lives of others. To many Myra residents, Nicholas was known as the gift-giver. The Bishop today inspires an annual gift-giving frenzy worth hundreds of $billions every Christmas.
The Bishop's charitable philanthropy covered all of the significant bases prescribed by scripture. He founded an orphanage, a kitchen for the poor, a hospital for the sick, and a nursing home for the elderly. The news of his humanitarian benevolence, and his reputation for working miracles, spread far and wide.
The Fictionalization of Santa Clause
The world loves Santa Claus because Old Nick personified the Christmas spirit, in godly loving the world every day of his life, and every day since. A true servant of God, indwelt and empowered by His infinite goodness, saint Nicholas was simply too good to be true. The challenge of his example so intimidating that we needed to turn him into an incredible comic cartoon character, and banish him to the north pole together with elves, dwarves and fairies.
Mixed with an occasional sprinkle of child-pleasing imagination and magical exaggeration, slowly the memory of this truly inspirational Turkish Bishop was transformed into the internationally beloved superhero ubiquitously known as Santa Claus. Today, Santa Claus is the euphoric king of Christmas, a mythological play-world to which Disney and Hollywood annually proffer homage. This popular seventeen hundred year old legend has a seemingly endless magnetic attraction for mythology. Fresh myths offered up annually, absolutely nothing is too far fetched.
With Christmas, the real Santa Claus is now buried deep under the single highest Everest of myth and fiction ever created by mankind. For the sake of our souls, the world needs Santa to be real, now as much as ever. Nicholas was posthumously beatified by the Church — given the title Saint. Saint Nicholas is the protector and patron saint of children and travellers. St. Nicholas Day is the 6th of December, the day of his passing in 343 anno Domini.