THE ORIGIN OF SANTA CLAUS

Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man – sometimes with spectacles – wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots.

St. Nicholas is usually acknowledged as the original Santa Claus. We actually know a very little about him. It is probably believed that he was born somewhere around the 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. He was the Bishop of Myra, presently known Turkey. He was famous for his kindness and generous gifts to the poor. He used to give all his inherited wealth to the poor and the needy.  On the eve of Christmas he used to bring gifts to the homes of good children in the late hours of night. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married.

The poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. As the bishop of Myra he was credited with doing a number of miracles involving sailors and children. After his death this led him to become the patron saint of both groups as well as for unmarried girl.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release he attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. (Tania Fernandes)