Christmas Traditions – Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus and the Christ Child
Who was Saint Nicholas & did he Give Presents as Father Christmas?
Saint Nicholas was born in AD c.280, in Patara, on the south coast of modern-day Turkey. The ancient city now lies in ruins. Nicholas was brought up as a Christian in a pagan world. His homeland was under the control of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (285-305), who ruled the Mediterranean region. Anti-Christian edicts made it a dangerous time for Christians and Nicholas’ faith went underground. This was a time when the Romans martyred many disciples of Jesus Christ. It was a culture that thrived on violence, sacrifice and gladiatorial sports.
As a young boy, Nicholas became an orphan when his parents died of a plague. A substantial inheritance was bequeathed and Nicholas gained prominence within society. As a wealthy Christian, he felt called by God to help the poor by doing good deeds. He followed the teaching of Jesus to keep his giving a secret.
When you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly– Matthew 6:3-4
According to legend, a young wealthy Nicholas heard of the plight of a poor father with three daughters. The impoverished dad could not afford a dowry for them and feared prostitution waited. Over the next two nights, Nicholas threw a bag of gold into their window. One of these bags apparently landed in one girl’s stocking, which was hung up to dry.
Nicholas felt they needed more assistance and on the third night, the girl’s father lay in wait for the generous mysterious donor. As Nicholas threw the third bag of gold into the window, the father ran to thank him. This act of kindness sowed the seed of the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas and placing them in a stocking. It created the legend of old Saint Nick, or Father Christmas, secretly giving presents to children.
Nicholas followed the example of God the Father, who gave His Son to mankind. At this time of year, we celebrate the greatest gift of Christmas, the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life– John 3:16
By Mathew Backholer. Find more about Mathew’s books here.