St. Nicholas (270-343)
Patron of Children, Brides, Sailors, Ships, the Wrongly Condemned
Feast Day: December 6
The inspiration for Santa Claus was St. Nicholas, known as Nikolaos of Myra, a 4th century saint and Greek bishop born to Christian parents in the Roman Empire (of modern-day Turkey). After his parents died in an epidemic, Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara, who mentored him and later ordained him to the priesthood. Nicholas was made bishop after returning to Asia Minor around 317 AD. He is patron of sailors, scholars, brides, and especially children. According to legend, he raised three young boys from the dead who were murdered by an innkeeper. Another story says he helped a poor man who couldn’t afford proper dowry for his three daughters, which put them at risk of becoming prostitutes. Nicholas threw bags of gold into the man’s house to cover the dowries. St. Nicholas is said to have attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, and slapped the heretic Arius for asserting that God the Son was inferior to God the Father. It is customary in several European countries to give small gifts and candy to children on the saint’s feast.