From Saint Nicholas To Santa Claus & The Tradition Of Giving Gifts

  • by XpatAthens
  • Monday, 18 December 2023
From Saint Nicholas To Santa Claus & The Tradition Of Giving Gifts
The story says that Saint Nicholas was born on March 15, 270 AD and died on December 6, 343 AD. He lost both of his parents as a young man and reportedly used his inheritance to help the poor and sick. A devout Christian, he later became a famous 4th-century Greek Bishop of Myra, which was in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey). Because of the many miracles attributed to him, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.

How Saint Nicholas Is celebrated In Greece 
According to Christmas traditions in Greece, the patron saint of the holiday is Saint Nicholas, who is also the protector of sailors. For this reason, you will often see boats decorated with many sparkling lights, rather than the traditional Christmas trees. The Christmas season in Greece begins on December 6th, which is Saint Nicholas Day and ends on January 6th with the Feast of the Epiphany (Theophania). The Greek Navy pays tribute to the patron saint of sailors with a special ceremony at the Hellenic Naval Academy.

From Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus
Over the years, stories of Saint Nicholas' miracles and work for the poor spread to other parts of the world. He became known as the protector of children as well as sailors and was associated with gift-giving. He was a popular saint in Europe until the Reformation in the 1500s, a religious movement that led to the creation of Protestantism, which turned away from the practice of honoring saints. Saint Nicholas, however, remained an important figure in Holland.

The Dutch continued to celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas on December 6 and it was a common practice for children to put out their shoes the night before. In the morning, they would discover the gifts that St. Nicholas had left there for them. It is said that Dutch immigrants brought St. Nicholas, known to them as Sint Nikolaas or by his nickname Sinter Klaas, and his gift-giving ways to America in the 1700s.

In America, St. Nicholas went through several transformations and eventually, Sinter Klaas became Santa Claus and instead of giving gifts on December 6, he became a part of the Christmas holiday. In the 1820 poem "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore, he is described as a jolly, heavy man who comes down the chimney to leave presents for deserving children and drives a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. The cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the St. Nicholas legend with an 1881 drawing of Santa as wearing a red suit with white fur trim. Once a kind, charitable bishop, St. Nicholas had become the Santa Claus we know today.