Skip to comments.Modern Santa Has Little in Common With 'Original' One, Scholar Says
Posted on 12/25/2012 7:54:33 AM PST by SeekAndFind
No Christmas passes by without depictions of Santa Claus, and yet we know little about St. Nicholas, the real man behind the red-suited, white-bearded legend. A U.S. scholar, who discovered the truth about him, offers insights on what the "original" Santa was known for.
While the vast majority of saint stories that circulated in the early church involved extraordinary miracles and healings or dramatic martyrdoms and confessions of Christ, the story of Nicholas was about a regular family facing a familiar crisis to which ordinary people could relate, writes Adam C. English, author of The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of St. Nicholas of Myra, in an article on CNN's Belief Blog. A rigorous research by English, associate professor of religion at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., took him to a tomb at the Basilica di San Nicola in the town of Bari on Italy's Adriatic coast, where lies the "real" Santa Claus.
The tomb dates to the 11th century, but Nicholas lived around the fourth century, and was bishop of a church in Myra on the southern coast of modern-day Turkey. At the center of his recognition as a unique saint is the tale of three poor daughters.
Nicholas learned that a citizen of Patara in Lycia, modern-day Turkey who had once been wealthy, had become extremely poor, English writes, narrating the incident according to tradition. Having no money for dowries to marry off his three beautiful daughters, the poor man feared they would each be forced into prostitution to support themselves.
To help the man, Nicholas bagged a sum of gold and tossed it through the man's window in the dead of night to help the man pay for the first daughter's marriage. Nicholas made another visit to the man's house sometime later so that the second daughter might marry, but he found the windows closed. So he dropped the bag of gold down the chimney, and it landed into one of the girl's stockings
Nicholas returned to deliver anonymously the third bag of gold for the last daughter, and the curious father leapt to his feet and raced outside, where he caught the giver of the gift. But Nicholas made him swear never to tell anyone what he'd done. He did not want praise or recognition for his generosity.
This act of anonymous kindness with bold initiative made Nicholas "the most popular nonbiblical saint in the pre-modern church," says English. More churches were dedicated to him than to any other person except Mary, the mother of Jesus, he notes.
In the 1080s, sailors from Bari plundered the tomb of St. Nicholas. They found his bones floating in a sweet-smelling liquid. Known as the myrrh or manna of St. Nicholas, the liquid was highly valued for its purported miraculous and therapeutic qualities, English says. So the bones were taken back to Italy and a basilica was erected in Bari to house them. To this day, Nicholas' tomb continues to excrete a small amount of watery liquid, he adds.
The significance of the "original" Santa has been diluted, English concludes. "Instead of fixating on the commercialization and greed that plague the modern Santa Claus, I chose to see in it the lasting power of a simple act of kindness."
Please. A “scholar” discovers the real St. Nicholas of Myra.
How about wandering into ANY Orthodox Church on December 6th (St. Nicholas’ name day)?
Good Lord. I sure am glad we have all these brilliant “scholars” around to tell us everything.
Ping. Blessed Nativity.
He slugged the heretic Arius at the Council of Nicaea.
What's more, after Constantine jugged him for it, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in prison, removed his chains, and gave him his bishop's vestments back. That convinced Constantine to un-jug him and restore his bishopric.
I wonder who wrote this historical episode...
I’m not sure why this “scholar” is claiming to have just discovered what was already widely said about St. Nicholas.
Here’s a good capsule biography, here:
The only reason any of us know about St. Nicholas of Myra is that our parents taught us, or we read church history. Lots of people didn't have faithful parents and never crack a history book, since the schools now teach "social studies" instead.
Even St. Paul said you have to go to people where they are.
The need to draw a sleigh, and the fact the celebrations occur in Winter have served to intertwine the stories.
I have no trouble at all keeping them straight ~ but one thing I do know, based on authoritative sources, reindeer think they fly and so do the shamen.
I’ve always liked that St. Nick a little better anyway. Fits my personality.
+Nicholas was so widely known for his gentleness and kindness that he was spared the prescribed ecclesial penalty of removal from holy orders normally applied to a cleric who acts with violence that could lead to bloodshed.
According to tradition our Lord appeared in a dream to many of the Bishops at the Council telling them that +Nicholas had acted out of love, not violent passion.
That history was written by the orthodox, the "winners" of the Council. It would be interesting to read what Arius and his followers recorded.
At least what is said about St. Nicholas helping three young ladies out shows the respect and esteem that the Christian faith gives to women and girls.
A man passionate for his Lord and faith.
For those who celebrate the Nativity today (not only Western Christians, but also Orthodox in the Greek, OCA, Antiochian, etc. churches):
Merry Christmas! Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Here’s a wonderful Orthodox resource on “Santa Claus” and the REAL Saint Nicholas/Sveti Nikola:
Many Serbs have St. Nicholas as their Slava, and they celebrate their Slava on the Old Calendar date, December 19.
Germans love St. Nicholas, too, and celebrate on December 6. The German St. Nicholas (dressed as a bishop) only brings small gifts of nuts and sweets—if one wants the annual American-style potlatch, that must wait until December 25.
We celebrated an Orthodox (OCA) Nativity/Christmas today and did the “whole 9 yards” beginning over the last several weeks—Nativity Fast, Confession, the Vigil for the Nativity last night, and Divine Liturgy this morning, followed by a relaxing day of feasting.