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The Real Man Behind Santa Claus: The Story of the Great Saint Nicholas

Do you know the story of the real Santa Claus?

Saint Nicholas was a fourth-century bishop whose life and legacy inspired the character of Santa Claus we know and love today. You can find more information about his patronage of children here.

However, while not much is truly known about Saint Nicholas, the legend below has carried on throughout the centuries, linking him to the custom of “Santa Claus” in the secular world.

According to Catholic News Agency,

“One of the most popular legends about Nicholas is that the saint, who is said to have come from a wealthy family, secretly helped a poor man with three daughters.”The father could not provide proper dowries for the girls to marry, and without husbands to support them, they might have been forced to turn to prostitution.”After learning about the situation, Nicholas secretly slipped a bag of gold coins through the family’s window while they were sleeping. He later left a second bag of coins, and likewise, another bag for the third daughter, at which point, the legend says, the father, who had waited up all night, “caught” Nicholas red-handed in his gift-giving. But Nicholas made him promise to keep the secret.The story is likely the explanation for why the modern Christmas character of Santa Claus brings his gifts for children under the cover of night.”

It is said that Saint Nicholas continued this tradition of secret gift-giving on Christmas Eve each year, and it wasn’t until after he died that his secret was revealed.

The stories of his generosity, paired with the proximity of his Dec. 6 feast day and the birth date of Jesus, contributed to him gradually becoming the inspiration for the figure of Santa Claus today.

As a parent, I think it is important to teach our children about the origins of secular traditions around this time of year. They are largely tied in with Christian symbolism and present amazing opportunities for catechesis around the dinner table!

How do you discuss Santa Claus as a family? Do you use it as an opportunity to evangelize?

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