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The Feast Day of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra

December 6, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve done a report on a feast day, so what better way to get back into it than to tell you a little bit about St. Nicholas?  St. Nicholas is the patron saint of many things, including: sailors, ships, children, prisoners, and those wrongly condemned, just to name a few.  When the Dutch reformers came to America, they brought with them the various stories of anonymous gift giving and kindly, generous acts that were told of St. Nicholas, but in the Dutch language, they called him “Sinterklaas,” or, “Santa Claus.”

St. Nicholas is renowned for many things, and remarkably, very few of them are what anyone could call childrens’ stories.  One of the best known of these stories is about a man who had three daughters, for none of whom could he afford the dowry for them to marry.  Because of this, they would likely end up as prostitutes in order to earn a living.  As the legend goes, on three successive nights, St. Nicholas walked by this family’s home, throwing a bag of gold through their window, one for each daughter.  In colder climates, he threw the bag down the chimney (ah ha! see that connection?!).  In some variations of this tale, the bag of gold tossed down the chimney landed in the young woman’s sock, which was hung to dry in front of the fire, thus giving rise to the popular tradition of Christmas stockings by the fireplace.

In another tale, St. Nicholas knew of an evil innkeeper who murdered three children, salted and pickled them, and then served their meat to guests to save money by not having to buy meat.  Nicholas confronted the innkeeper, who confessed to the crimes, and then prayed over the brine tub where the bodies were preserving and the three boys jumped out, alive and uninjured.
Most of the stories we tell about St. Nick, or Santa Claus, today are a bit more tame, but their origins, as you can see, are anything but.  Another interesting factoid for you is that the author of “”Twas the Night Before Christmas,” the classic poem, Clement C. Moore, was an Episcopal priest.

For more information about the true St. Nicholas, as well as lots of games and stories to play and tell with children, visit Carol Myers’ and Jim Rosenthal’s wonderful website: The St. Nicholas Center.


The Collect for St. Nicholas

Almighty God, who in thy love didst give to thy servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness on land and sea: Grant, we pray thee, that thy Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Fr. Ryan+

One Comment leave one →
  1. Paul Joslin permalink
    December 6, 2010 2:11 pm

    Benjamin Britten composed a wonderful cantata about the life of St. Nicholas depicting tales from his birth to his death, including the stories about the three daughters and the “pickled boys.” Check out the link below where you can listen to complete audio files of the various scenes from the cantata performed at Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral in Indianapolis.

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