05 December 2007

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Facts About St. Nicholas

By Michelle Styles

1. 6 December is the saint day of St. Nicholas.

2. St. Nicholas was a bishop of Myra (now in Turkey) in the 4th century. Born somewhere between 260-280 AD. He died in 343.

3. Among his acts he saved a poor man's three daughters by tossing three gold bags over the wall into the garden.

4. Because of the act of charity, St Nicholas is the patron saint of pawnbrokers.

5. The symbol for a pawnbroker is three gold balls--the three bags that St Nicholas tossed in into the garden.

6. St. Nicholas apparently restored to life several young boys who had been murdered. He was also known for his generosity to children and spent his inheritance helping the poor and needy children of the region. For these acts, he is considered to be the patron saint of children everywhere.

7. He is also the patron saint of barrel makers, parish clerks, candle makers, florists, grocers, lawyers, lovers, spice-dealers and mariners.

8. St. Nicholas Day is a very important day in Holland when children put out their wooden shoes. They are hoping for gifts.

9. St. Nicholas was imported to the US with the Dutch settlers where he became known as Santa Claus.

10. In the 1870s, he crossed the Atlantic again and became known as Father Christmas in Britain. Father Christmas is traditionally thin and wears bishop robes. The US Santa Claus garb comes from a Coca-Cola advert. Before 1870, the British Father Christmas was known as Old Christmas and dressed in green.

11. St. Nicholas was a very popular saint in the early Middle Ages.

12. It used to be customary to elect a boy bishop who preformed a juvenile version of the office, excluding Mass on St.Nicholas Day. He served until Holy Innocents Day (28 December)

13. The Anglican cathedral of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is dedicated to St. Nicholas. It became a cathedral during Queen Victoria's reign (1882). It is one of more than 400 British churches to be dedicated to St. Nicholas.