Saint Nicholas

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St. Nicholas as a Bishop with Jesus Christ and The Blessed Virgin Mary over his shoulders.

Saint Nicholas -- also known as Saint Nicholas of Myra, Saint Nicholas of Bari, and Santa Claus, is the patron saint of merchants, sailors, archers, bakers, pawnbrokers, the Huguenots, and, of course, children. He was the Bishop of Myra (in modern Turkey) and is a highly venerated and beloved saint who is revered in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. His feast day is December 6 in the Roman Catholic Church and the Western Orthodox Churches and December 19th in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Nicholas was born in the year 270 in Patara, a port city in Lycia, a province in Asia Minor. He was of Greek extraction. Devoutly religious from a very young age, Nicholas joined a monastery early in life after both of his parents died. After Nicholas was placed in the Bishopship at Myra, the surrounding areas were invaded and conquered by Muslims. Despite this threat, Nicholas was able to protect his congregation and through diplomacy and good governance Myra thrived while other territories suffered greatly. He died in December, 343. In 1087, his relics were moved to Bari, a town in in southeastern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nicholas of Bari. Saint Nicholas was known for his selfless deeds and gifts of charity to the poor and is fondly called Saint Nicholas the Wonder worker. His penchant for donating charity anonymously was well known and this led to his later form of Santa Claus, who circles the Earth on an airborne sled drawn by reindeer, distributing gifts to children. He may be petitioned for blessings, money, strength during times of adversity, and the granting of secret wishes.

Saint Nicholas is typically depicted in the full regalia of an Eastern Orthodox Bishop. He wears a gold mitre on his head symbolizing closeness to God and the Divine. He holds the Gospel in one hand, symbolizing his learnedness and devotion. In some Eastern Orthodox images of the saint, Christ appears over his left shoulder proffering a Gospel to him, while the Blessed Virgin Mary (Theotokos) appears over his left shoulder offering him the Bishop's omophorion. In Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Southern Germany he is associated with an ancient Pagan festival that celebrates a wild woods-god named Krampus; through the process of centuries of Christianization, Krampus has come to be portrayed as the servant of Saint Nicholas. In modern times, as Sana Claus, he has become seen as a semi-secular character, often dressed in red and white, who brings gifts to children, and his feast day has been displaced from December 6 or December 19th, to December 24th, the Night Before Christmas, when it is customary to leave out offerings of milk and cookies for him so that he can refresh himself during his journey around the world to bring gifts to children in time for Christmas Day.


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