Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Who Was St. Nicholas?

Who is the St. Nicholas who become our Santa Claus?

(Above—an 1898 painting called St. Nicholas of Myra Saves Three Innocents From Death. Painted by a Russian named Ilya Repin.

St. Nicholas was a fourth-century Bishop of Myra. Myra was then in Greece. It is now in Turkey.

Not much is known of the life of St. Nicholas. He is said to have been generous to children and to the poor. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children. Here is a link to a list of Saints.

St. Nicholas is said to have been born into a prosperous home. His parents died when he was a young man and he was left an inheritance. Nicholas used this inheritance to help a poor man support three daughters who otherwise would have been sold into prostitution to support the family home.

It was this gift giving that is the connection between the St. Nicholas of old and the Santa of the modern day. In the spirit of the gifts for the three children, people in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands began to give each other gifts at Christmas. Santa Claus is, after a few mutations, St. Nicholas.

It is said Nicholas brought back to life two or three boys who had been cut-up and tossed in a brine-tub by an innkeeper. The innkeeper was going to sell the boys as pickled pork.

It is claimed that God his or herself indicated to the people of Myra that Nicholas should be selected as Bishop.

Nicholas was renowned as a champion of the falsely accused. He saved the lives of three men who were going to be put to death based on a sentence that had been made on this basis of a bribe. That account is the basis of the picture above.

Many falsely accused people are put to death and placed in jail in the United States in the current day. Please click here to read about The Innocence Project.

Nicholas is the patron saint of prisoners and prostitutes. All people merit concern. Here is a list of the many groups that can claim Nicholas as patron saint.

St. Nicholas is said to have stopped a raging storm in Greece and in so doing saved the lives of many mariners. In Greece, he is the patron saint of sailors.

Santa is about more than gift giving.  I don’t think St. Nicholas would have lined up at Best Buy at 5 AM the morning after Thanksgiving to get a bargain on a laptop.

Here is a brief account of St. Nicholas from AmericanCatholic.org.  

One source for this post was The Oxford Companion To The Year—An Exploration Of Calender Customs And Time-Reckoning. It’s a great book.

(Below–A statue of. St. Nick in Myra, Turkey. Photo by Lindi44.) 

December 15, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. “Many falsely accused people are put to death…in the United States in the current day.”

    Who were the last three?

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | December 15, 2011

  2. I’m one of many people who think the death penalty has been used to kill people who are innocent. The link I provide backs that assertion.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | December 15, 2011

  3. if he can bring back to life a kid who was cut up, pickled and brined then I’d vote for him to be bishop or any other position he wanted.

    I haven’t checked the list yet, is he patron saint of pickle makers too?

    Comment by citizenx | December 18, 2011

  4. He is not according to the list. Why what they want him when he is stealing their ingredients?

    Comment by Neil Aquino | December 18, 2011

  5. […] at Texas Liberal wrote a post considering the life of the real St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was a foe of the death penalty who was said to have brought back to life children who […]

    Pingback by Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Up Date « Doing My Part for the Left | December 19, 2011

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