Thursday, December 06, 2007

Feast day of St Nicholas of Myra (Santa Claus)

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
Nicholas (Nikolaus) (c. 270 - 345/352) became a Bishop of Myra in Lycia, Asia Minor when quite young. From this fact arose the old European tradition of Boy Bishops, who reigned from December 6 to 28, in a parody of church officials. More of that later.

Among Christians, he is also known as the 'Wonderworker'. Several acts of kindness and miracles are attributed to him. Historical accounts often confuse him with the later Nicholas of Sion. He has always been a very popular saint: in England at least 372 churches are named in his honour ...

Enemy of the old religion
The destruction of several pagan temples is also attributed to him, among them one temple of Artemis (also known as Diana). Arguing that the celebration of Diana's birth is on December 6, some authors have speculated that this date was deliberately chosen for Nicholas's feast day to overshadow or replace the pagan celebrations ...

Legend of the 3 dowries
A nobleman of Patara had three daughters; he was so poor he couldn't provide their dowries and they were going to have to go into prostitution. St Nick had inherited a large fortune, and he resolved to help, but secretly. As he went to their house at night, wondering how to do this, the moon came out from behind a cloud and lit up a window through which he threw a bag of gold, which fell at the girls' father's feet. This enable him to provide a dowry for his first daughter. The next night, St Nicholas threw another in, and thus procured a dowry for the second daughter. The father wanted to see the benefactor, so on the third night he saw St Nick coming and grabbed his cloak, saying "O Nicholas! servant of God! why seek to hide thyself?" The saint made him promise not to tell any one. From this came the custom on St Nicholas's eve of putting out presents for children. For his helping the poor, St Nicholas is the patron saint of pawnbrokers; the three gold balls traditionally hung outside a pawnshop are symbolic of the three sacks of gold ...

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