Monday, December 21, 2009

Who really was Old St. Nick?

Written by Miranda Caverley

As a child when Christmas rolled around, my family would celebrate the birth of Jesus. But we also would await the visit of Santa Claus, or St. Nick. Especially all the gifts he would leave under our Christmas tree and in our stockings. When I was a child I never knew the history of St.Nick. That was until I was an adult and really started looking into the history of “Santa Claus”. How we came to celebrate this man who would visit us on Christmas Eve and brought presents to all the children in the world in just one night. That and also how “Santa Claus” has become more important than Jesus, and celebrating the birth of our Savior to most of the world. This is what I found out about the real St. Nick, and how the legend of Santa Claus became one of the main focuses of the Christmas season.

The Real St. Nick

Article from Joyful Heart Renewel Ministries

The Real St. Nick
(Santa Claus)

Written by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

"A vast multitude was imprisoned in every place," wrote an eyewitness. "The prisons -- prepared for murderers and robbers -- were filled with bishops, priests, and deacons ... so there was no longer room for those condemned of crimes."[1]

You'd hardly expect to find old St. Nick in jail. But St. Nicholas is more than a children's Christmas legend. He was flesh and blood, a prisoner for Christ, bishop of the Mediterranean city of Myra.

What do we know about the real St. Nicholas? He was born, ancient biographers tell us, to wealthy parents in the city of Patara about 270 A.D. He was still young when his mother and father died and left him a fortune.

As a teen-ager, Nicholas' humility was already evident. He had heard about a family destitute and starving. The father had no money for food, much less the dowry needed to marry off his three daughters. He was ready to send his oldest girl into the streets to earn a living as a prostitute.

Under the cover of night, Nicholas threw a bag of gold coins through the window of their humble dwelling. In the morning the father discovered the gold. How he rejoiced: his family was saved, his daughter's honor preserved, and a dowry for her marriage secured. Some time after, Nicholas secretly provided a dowry for the second daughter. Still later for the third.

But on the third occasion, the girls' father stood watching. As soon as the bag of gold thudded on the floor, he chased after the lad till he caught him. Nicholas was mortified to be discovered in this act of charity. He made the father promise not to tell anyone who had helped his family. Then Nicholas forsook his wealth to answer a call to the ministry.

At the nearby city of Myra a bishop supervised all the churches of the region. When the bishop died, the bishops and ministers from other cities and villages -- Nicholas among them -- gathered to choose a successor.

Nicholas was in the habit of rising very early and going to the church to pray. This morning an aged minister awaited him in the sanctuary. "Who are you, my son?" he asked.

"Nicholas the sinner," the young minister replied. "And I am your servant."

"Come with me," the old priest directed. Nicholas followed him to a room where the bishops had assembled. The elderly minister addressed the gathering. "I had a vision that the first one to enter the church in the morning should be the new bishop of Myra. Here is that man: Nicholas."

Indeed they did choose him as bishop. Nicholas was destined to lead his congregation through the worst tribulation in history.

In A.D. 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered a brutal persecution of all Christians. Those suspected of following the Lord were ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods. Nicholas and thousands of others refused.

Ministers, bishops, and lay people were dragged to prison. Savage tortures were unleashed on Christians all over the empire. Believers were fed to wild animals. Some were forced to fight gladiators for their lives while bloodthirsty crowds screamed for their death. Women suffered dehumanizing torment. Saints were beaten senseless, others set aflame while still alive.

Yet persecution couldn't stamp out Christianity. Rather it spread. Third Century leader Tertullian observed, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

Those who survived Diocletian's torture chambers were called "saints" or "confessors" by the people, because they didn't forsake their confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. Nicholas was one of these.

Finally, after years of imprisonment, the iron doors swung open and Bishop Nicholas walked out, freed by decree of the new Emperor Constantine. As he entered his city once more, his people flocked about him. "Nicholas! Confessor!" they shouted. "Saint Nicholas has come home."

The bishop was beaten but not broken. He served Christ's people in Myra for another thirty years. Through the prayers of this tried and tested soldier of faith, many found salvation and healing. Nicholas participated in the famous Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. He died on December 6, about 343, a living legend, beloved by his whole city.

St. Nick of yuletide fame still carries faint reminders of this ancient man of God. The color of his outfit recollects the red of bishop's robes. "Making a list, checking it twice," probably recalls the old saint's lectures to children about good behavior. Gifts secretly brought on Christmas eve bring to mind his humble generosity to the three daughters.

Yet if he were alive today, this saint would humbly deflect attention from himself. No fur-trimmed hat and coat, no reindeer and sleigh or North Pole workshop. As he did in life centuries ago, Bishop Nicholas would point people to his Master.

"I am Nicholas, a sinner," the old saint would say. "Nicholas, servant of Christ Jesus."

[1] Eusebius, Church History, VIII, 6, 9.

NOTES: A great deal of legend has built up around St. Nicholas. The author has carefully selected material which he deemed to be the most credible accounts based on those found in Life of Nicholas by tenth century biographer Symeon Logotheta the Metaphrast, quoted by Charles W. Jones in Saint Nicholas of Myra, Bari, and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978).

Santa’s reindeer history rooted in pagan god worship

The god Odin

Prior to the Christianization of the Germanic people, Odin was one of their major gods. Odin, on an eight-legged horse, would lead a hunting party through the sky during the Germanic holiday of Yule. Children would fill their shoes with carrots, straw or sugar and place them near the chimney for Odin’s flying horse to eat, according to Siefker. Odin would then fill the empty boots with gifts and candy. The practice evolved into hanging stockings and was brought to the United States by the Dutch.

So the god Odin’s flying eight legged horse that children laid food out for, has now turned into the 8 flying reindeer for Santa.


As Christians it is very hard to live in this world and not be influenced by all that is around us. Every year it seems that the true meaning of CHRISTmas is more and more over shadowed by “Santa Claus” and big sales at the dept stores, trying to boost up our struggling economy. The real reason for the season is the birth of A Savior Jesus Christ, who came to love and save the whole world. I wonder if we could focus more on Jesus’ birthday and not all the commercialism the holidays have turned out to be. If people would be just a little less stressed knowing that the greatest gift has already been given to us all?

We also should remember and share with others that St. Nicholas was a real man and share the “true” story of him. Not what the world has made him to be. But, a man of God that gave everything he had to those in need and devoted his life to God and spreading the gospel.

As a child of Christian parents who had me believe in Santa Claus, the flying reindeer and everything that is promoted today about Christmas. I have very fond memories of thinking Santa had come to visit and left me so many presents under the tree and even having my picture taken with Santa when I was a little girl. But now knowing the real history of Santa and even the flying reindeer and knowing it has its’ roots in pagan worship. It really makes me think about what our role as Christians should be in promoting this celebration of Santa Claus. As the world year after year focuses more and more on Santa, and pushes the birth of Jesus farther and farther out of the Christmas season.

I wonder if St. Nicholas were still alive today, and knowing that he has been placed higher than Jesus and even compared to a pagan god! If he would be standing in the streets preaching and protesting? Especially when looking at his life and how he was a humble man completely devoted to Christ, sharing the message of the gospel even when faced with death and torture.

In today’s society there are many Christians who allow their children to believe in Santa Claus. Then there are also many that don’t, and even feel that it goes against the teachings of the bible and is a sin in the eyes of God. While others don’t even celebrate anything on Dec. 25th. Because, there isn’t any biblical proof that Jesus was even born on that day so they choose to celebrate nothing.

My reason for writing this article is to give you the facts and the truth. Because, the truth shall set you free. God gave us all a free will and we all must make this decision every year when Christmas rolls around. “Who we choose this day to serve” as the gospel says.

Will we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, and also remember a great man of God named Nicholas? A man who devoted his life to God and giving to those in need, and went home to be with the Lord on December 6th. Or will we be Celebrating the legend of Santa Claus and his 8 flying reindeer? Will we sign our own names on the gifts we give to our friends and loved ones, or will we write “from Santa”?

Want to know the full history of Christmas? check out these links to The History Channels documentary

“Christmas Unwrapped”

             part 1     part 2    part 3      

part 4       part 5


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