- Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra (in modern-day Turkey). He lived from 270-343, and died on December 6th (which is his feast day).
- Nicholas had a fairly normal upbringing and rise to religious occupation. He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents, observed canonical fasts from a young age, studied at a monastery, became ordained, and was eventually consecrated as a bishop.
- Many miracles have been attributed to St. Nicholas, giving him the nickname “Nikolaos the Wonderworker.” He is the patron saint of sailors, broadcasters, and pawnbrokers, among many others.
- There are a lot of stories about St. Nicholas, though many don’t appear until decades or centuries after his death and are less historical fact and more colorful lore. One has him resurrecting a trio of murdered clerks who were to be turned into meat pies by the wife of a homicidal butcher, which I only mention because it sounds like the inspiration for the old Sweeney Todd tales.
- One story that likely has some basis in reality is St. Nicholas finding out about a man who had three daughters, but no dowry for any of them. Without a dowry the girls would likely never marry and could be forced into prostitution. St. Nicholas secretly gave the man three purses of gold to serve as dowries. Some versions get a bit more fantastical with the details, the best one claiming Nicholas threw a bag into the window of the house for each girl the night before she came of age. The night of the final bag the father tried to see who the benefactor was, so Nicholas dropped it down the chimney instead. It fell into the girl’s stocking, which had been hung near the embers to dry.
- In 325 Nicholas attend the First Council of Nicaea, where he signed the Nicene Creed with the rest of the bishops. Prior to researching Nicholas, it never occurred to me that a church creed was something to be signed, like a Declaration of Independence.
- The hot-button issue at the council of Nicaea was Arianism, the most inside baseball thing I’ve blogged about so far. Arius and his supporters believed Christ was created by the Father, meaning he was separate from the Father, subordinate to the Father, and had a beginning in time. However the prevailing majority believed Christ was “begotten” by the Father from his own being, meaning they were still one and Christ had no beginning, just as the Father has no beginning. Legend has it that the debate got so heated that St. Nicholas punched Arius in the face.