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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

St. Nicholas: The inspiration for Santa Claus

Since we were kids, we know that Santa Claus was inspired by a saint named Saint Nicholas.  All I know about St Nicholas is that he loved to give small gifts to kids. That's just about it. :)

Since it's Christmas, I quickly read up about St. Nicholas of Myra -the saint believed to be the inspiration for Santa Claus.  He was born in the 4th century near Myra in the Mediterranean region.  He came from a wealthy merchant family but his parents taught him the value of generosity - that helping others makes one richer in life than anything else.

He became the bishop of Myra and he is known for shunning recognition. He appeared to help anyone in need then would just quietly disappear.  He made sure families had enough food to eat and a good place to live, that kids get ahead in life and that that old people lived out their lives with dignity and respect.  (Source)

But here's a story about Saint Nicholas that really moved me.

St. Nicholas Source
One day, Saint Nicholas learned about the story of a businessman who lost all his money.  He had three daughters wishing all to get married and during that time, if a girl wanted to get married, the father had to offer dowry to prospective husbands.  Without any dowry to offer, the daughters were unlikely to marry and just be sold to slavery.  With nothing to eat, the father contemplated on selling one of his daughters to slavery so the others would survive.

What St Nicholas did was the night before the father was to sell her daughter, he quietly went to their house and secretly tossed a bag of gold coins into an open window.  The next day, the father saw the gold coins.  He couldn't think of any one who could possibly afford to give him gold coins.  The coins were more than enough to serve as dowry for one of his daughters so one was able to marry.  The family was able to use the excess for their living expenses.

After almost one year, the family ran out of money so the father again thought of selling one of his daughters to slavery.  When Saint Nicholas heard about it,  he again secretly tossed a bag of gold coins into their open window the night before the father was to sell his daughter.  The next day, the father found the gold coins again and thanked God for the blessing but he wondered who the mysterious person giving them the bag of gold coins whenever they were in need.

After that night, the father decided to wait by the window every night to catch this mysterious person. As the year passed by and the family run out of money.  One evening, a bag of gold coins was tossed into their window again. The father quickly ran out of the house to catch the mysterious person and recognized Nicholas coming from a wealthy family.

The father asked, "Why did you give us the gold?"

Nicholas answered, "Because you needed it."

"But why didn't you let us know who you were," the father asked again.

"Because it's good to give and have only God know about it." Nicholas answered.

Wow.  I've never read such a powerful statement to illustrate the values of generosity and humility.

Thanks, St. Nicholas, for teaching us the true meaning of giving. :)

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