In our culture, Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus is a well-known figure of an old man dressed in red, with a long white beard, a walking cane, glasses and a bag full of presents. But the cult of this figure is associated with the story of the Bishop of Myra, an ancient town in Lycia (currently in Turkey).
Santa Claus was born in 270 in Patara. He gained recognition as a kind, big-hearted person who cared about other people, especially those in need, such as the sick and the poor. Legend has it that he inherited a fortune from his parents only to share it with the poorest. He was a devout and merciful man. He became a Bishop of Myra as willed by its inhabitants. He died in the middle of the 4th century. After his death he was ardently paid tributes to. When the Arabs were occupying the city, Italian merchants managed to steal the relics of the late bishop and to transport them to the Italian city of Bari. There are many legends of bishop Nicholas’ noble deeds. One of them says that he was the one to stand up for three unjustly imprisoned officers who, thanks to him, were released.
According to another legend, he saved three boys from a death sentence. He also saved few sailors from a maritime disaster. It is an eminent story of how he reacted to the news of some beggar selling his three daughters to a brothel. At night, he dropped bags with money through the chimney to ransom the girls. The pouches fell into stockings and shoes drying by the fireplace. Hence the custom of hanging the Christmas stockings upon the fireplace. Santa Claus became famous as the bishop of those in need. He offered material aid to the poor and spiritual support to the disadvantaged. On 6 December, the Catholic Church remembers St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra. He is worshipped as a patron of fishermen, sailors, children, maidens and prisoners.
In the Orthodox Catholic Church, Santa Claus or St. Nicholas is the most worshipped of all the saints. He is a patron saint of Greece, Albania and Russia. Due to his noble reputation, popularity of Santa has not faded until today. Every year, people put on his costume and give Christmas presents to their loved ones, especially children. We can only hope that this tradition will last in our hearts and souls as long as possible, for there is nothing more beautiful than making other people happy.