Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Tomorrow is the feast of Saint Nicholas for both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches (and the nameday of my father-in-law). I thought it might be fitting in this season to remember where our "Santa Claus" comes from. Here is a little of what the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has to say about him:
This Saint lived during the reign of Saint Constantine the Great, and reposed in 330. As a young man, he desired to espouse the solitary life. He made a pilgrimage to the holy city Jerusalem, where he found a place to withdraw to devote himself to prayer. It was made known to him, however, that this was not the will of God for him, but that he should return to his homeland to be a cause of salvation for many. He returned to Myra, and was ordained bishop. He became known for his abundant mercy, providing for the poor and needy, and delivering those who had been unjustly accused....
Legend has it that Saint Nicholas tossed bags of gold secretly into the house of three girls in the middle of the night, because their father could not afford a dowry for them to marry. When the girls discovered it, the story became widely known, and people everywhere began to thank Saint Nicholas when they received an unexpected or secret gift. Sound familiar?
I think it's nothing but beneficial to have a little more perspective on the traditions that seem to come to us so steadily and consistently, yet still change so drastically over time. I know that so many people try to sidestep the commercialism that has become part and parcel with Christmas, while others want it to simply be a time to buy presents without the religious undertones. The only way that either can achieve their goal is to learn the history. So I'm just doing my portion.
In any case, Happy Saint Nicholas Day.
p.s. He is also the patron saint of travelers, in case you're interested.