Many of us know that the Christmas tradition of St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, can trace its roots from an actual person living in the late third and early fourth centuries. But did you also know that this “Santa Claus” raised three children from the dead? Ho ho ho!
We know that Nicholas (270-343 AD) was born at Patara of Lycia in Asia Minor. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. He became the Bishop of Myra in 270 AD, then the capital of Lycia.
Nicholas was born into a family of great wealth. But when his parents died while he still a young man, he decided to give his family wealth away to help families in need, especially children. You can read about those stories here. These accounts are why he is considered the patron saint of children.
St. Nick was an ardent Trinitarian, sharply contending with the Arian heresies that dominated his day, and is thought to have attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. According to the St. Nicholas Center, he was exiled and imprisoned by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians. When the prisons became so full of Christian leaders that there was no room for real criminals, “Santa Claus” was released…and the rest is history!
But what’s most remarkable about the original Jolly Old St. Nick is the miraculous account of him raising three children from the dead…after they had been chopped up and pickled! Here’s a quote from Beliefnet’s website:
Tradition has it that an evil shopkeeper in the town of Myra hated children. He kidnapped three small boys, chopped them up with an axe, and pickled them in a barrel. St. Nicholas, upon hearing of this horror, prayed fervently to God. Because of the purity of his faith, the boys were raised to life and wholeness again and came out of the pickle barrel singing “Alleluia!” and giving thanks to God. (Beliefnet)
While this no doubt sounds incredible to deistically rational Western ears, and there have been variations to the story, there is a kernel of truth to every great legend. In other words, we can believe that something miraculous happened here! (Hey, if he can fit into any chimney in the world and travel by flying reindeer, why should raising chopped up and pickled children from the dead be a problem?)
What’s also remarkable is that there was actually another St. Nicholas who also raised children from the dead. This St. Nick was from Tolentino and lived in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century. He allegedly raised 100 children from the dead!
Regardless of what you believe about this, the real St. Nicholas demonstrated the Father’s love and compassion for His kids. For this reason, he is one of my heroes of the faith and I proudly include him on my blog.
And as little children anxiously await Jolly Old St. Nicholas to visit them once again this Christmas, “When the clock is striking twelve, when I’m fast asleep, down the chimney broad and black, with your pack you’ll creep,” may we all be inspired by the original Santa Claus—a real person of great faith and charity.
And don’t forget to leave him some milk and cookies. 🙂
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”