Saint behind the Story of Santa Claus
Saint Nicholas,of Myra in southern Asia Minor was a Greek Orthodox Bishop in the 4th century AD and symbolic gift-bearing figure commonly identified with Father Christmas (Santa Claus).
He became known throughout the land for his generosity and his love for children.
Saint Nicholas of Myra was born in the ancient Lycian seaport city of Patara, Asia Minor, about 270 AD during Roman occupation.
In language, culture and outlook however, Patara, was Greek - it was colonized by people from the island of Crete.
In antiquity, it was noted for its temple and oracle of Apollo, second only to that of Delphi, an important ancient Greek religious sanctuary to the god Apollo, on Mt. Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth.
Born to wealthy parents who raised him to be a devout Christian, they died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and left him a fortune.
Nicholas dedicated his life to serving God and used his inheritance to assist the needy, the sick and the suffering.
Biblical Asia Minor
Biblical Asia Minor was the place where many exciting stories of early Christianity took place.
Antioch was the ancient city where the first gentile (non-Jew) church was founded and where the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians.
Saint Paul started his missionary journeys from Antioch to spread the Christian faith to the gentile (non-Jew) world.
Here also, you will find Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat.
In Asia Minor, there are the Seven Churches of Revelation of Early Christianity, mentioned in the New Testament as recorded by John the Evangelist, on the Greek island of Patmos. These seven churches were located at: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Here, the first and most important Orthodox, Christian Empire - the medieval, Byzantine Empire was located.
And, Asia Minor was the birthplace of many Greek Saints which include Saint Paul (a Jew), Saint Timothy (Timotheos), Saint Basil, Saint George, Saint Nicholas and Saint Helene, the mother of the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, to name just a few, all left their mark on Christianity and applied in their lives the scriptural virtues of justice, piety, fidelity, love, fortitude and gentleness.
Nicholas was to become the Bishop of Myra while still a young man who was noted for his defense of Orthodoxy.
Myra was an ancient Greek town in Lycia, Asia Minor. Despite Roman occupation, the Greek speaking population embraced Christianity.
It was here also, that the beloved Greek physician, Luke the Evangelist and the Apostle Paul, changed ships during their journey from Caesarea to Rome for Paul's trial.
In 303 AD, the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered a brutal persecution of all Christians all over the Roman Empire.
Christians were forced to fight wild animals or gladiators for their lives while blood-thirsty crowds screamed for death.
Others were beaten senseless or set aflame while still alive.
Saint Nicholas of Myra was imprisoned for his Christian faith.
Finally, when the new Christian Emperor, Constantine the Great came to power, he was freed after many years of imprisonment.
Nicholas was to serve as Bishop of Myra for another thirty years.
He also participated in the famous Council of Nicea, Asia Minor, in 325 AD.
The Council of Nicea was the first council in the history of the Christian church whose main accomplishments were settlement of the Divine Nature of God the Son and his relationship to God the Father, the construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed, establishing observance of the date of Easter and, to put into effect, early canon law.
Saint Nicholas of Myra died on December 6, 343 AD and was buried in his church at Myra, a living legend and beloved by all.
His Feast Day on the Greek Orthodox Calendar is celebrated on December 6.
In 1923 Saint Nichols' church in Myra was abandoned when the city's Christian inhabitants were forced to leave their ancient roots by the Population exchange between Turkey and Greece.
In 1087, Saint Nicholas' relics were abducted from Myra by Italian merchants and taken to Bari in Southern Italy where they are now enshrined in that city, in the Basilica of San Nicola.
His remains exude a fragrant myrrh-like substance known as myron.
Through the centuries, his shrine has been visited and many miracles have been recorded.
In Greece Saint Nicholas of Mra is revered and is the patron Saint of sailors, fishermen, ships and sailing.
He has become the Patron Saint of several cities with harbors throughout Greece and Greek ships never leave port without an icon of Saint Nicholas on board.
In addition, he is honored as the Patron Saint of many countries, notably Greece and Russia.
Love for God and His Neighbor
One of the best-known stories of Saint Nicholas' generous gift giving involved a pious Christian with three daughters and not enough money to provide them with dowries which meant they could not marry.
Nicholas walked by the house on three successive nights and each time threw a bag of gold through the window thus providing them the opportunity to marry.
Father Christmas (Santa Claus) symbolizes this spirit of gift giving.
Father Christmas is identified with Saint Nicholas, the historical Bishop of Myra who had a reputation as a secret bringer of gifts to poor people and children.
Father Christmas is a part of the Spirit of Christmas who arrives on a sleigh in the early hours of Christmas morning to place presents for children in Christmas stockings or by the family Christmas tree.
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