Subverting Santa Claus

December 6 is the feast day of Saint Nicholas whose memory has been corrupted by the commercialized Santa Claus.

But this fourth century bishop in many ways subverts the values of a commercialized Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (today Turkey) was not without his faults.

His temper led him to punch the heretic Arius at the Council of Nicaea; Nicholas was jailed and repented of his angry attack, though he stood up for his belief in the humanity and divinity of Jesus.

That was not the first time he had been imprisoned. Because of his faith he was imprisoned and beaten during the persecution of Diocletian.

But as bishop he was a man who listened to the people.

At one point he went to the Emperor to ask him to reduce the taxes on Myra which were bankrupting the citizens.

At another point he intervened and stopped the execution of three innocent men.

He rescued three young boys who had been kidnapped, killed, and pickled by a man who hated kids.

By throwing in three sacks of coins, he also rescued three young women whose father did not have money for a dowry and who would have had to become prostitutes.

Nicholas is a defender of children and women, an advocate for life and for justice.

The legends about St. Nicholas abound. He is the patron of sailors since he was invoked by sailors during a storm.

Let us remember him today and this season by our commitment to God, to children, to innocent victims of violence and oppression, and to women.


Icon of St. Nicholas rescuing a sailor. Courtesy of Lynn Miller.

Hundreds of resources on St. Nicholas can be found on the site of the St. Nicholas Center.

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