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St. Nicholas

Nicholas was likely born in Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor. His parents were wealthy Christians. He was named bishop of Myra (in present-day Turkey). As bishop he became known for his generosity, holiness, and miracles. During the persecution of Diocletian, Nicholas was imprisoned for his faith, but escaped with his life. He attended the Council of Nicaea and staunchly denounced Arianism. He died in Myra around 350. Many traditions developed about the holy bishop, in which it is difficult to separate fact from pious fiction. The most famous is the story of how Nicholas aided three poor girls whose father could not afford a dowry for them so that they could marry. Nicholas threw three bags of gold into their house (down the chimney), saving the girls from a possible life in prostitution. It is also told how Nicholas saved the lives of three innocent men condemned to die; the governor who sentenced them had been bribed to find them guilty. Nicholas convinced the governor to admit what he had done. Nicholas was a popular saint and became more popular when his relics where moved to Bari in 1087. His shrine at Bari became a great pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Nicholas is the patron of storm-tossed sailors because his intercession saved some sailors off the coast Lycia. He is the patron of children because of a story told in which he restored three murdered children to life. His name in Dutch is Sint Klaes which was transformed into Santa Claus, the loveable giver of gifts; some of Santa Claus’ development is also traceable to the Germanic god Thor who rode in a chariot pulled by goats. The feast of St. Nicholas is on December 6. It customary in parts of Europe for children to receive gifts from the saint on this day.

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