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Origins of Santa Claus  |  Santa Traditions

ountless legends are told about this Patron Saint of Giving known as St. Nicholas. Within both Western and Eastern Christian Churches similar mythology, or tradition, exists. 

According to these legends, St. Nicholas was born in the city of Patara, and traveled to Palestine and Egypt when he was young.

He was later imprisoned during persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian, but was fortunately released by the moreSt. Nicholas humanitarian Emperor Constantine. He attended the first council of Nicaea in 325.

In Greek, St. Nicholas is known as Hagios Nikolaos, Bishop of Myra (in the present day Turkey).

St Nicholas reportedly died about 350 AD.

Today, this mythical character is still alive and well and is known all over the world as: Nicholas of Myra, Santa Claus or "Santa" in America.

His fame spread rapidly during the Middle Ages and thousands of churches are dedicated to him.

He has been the patron saint of Russia, Moscow, Greece, children, sailors, prisoners, bakers, pawnbrokers, shopkeepers and wolves.

His gift-giving role in Christmas rites probably follows from his fame as the friend of children. The story also tells that he used to give anonymous donations of gold coins to persons in need. His cult spread in Europe and Christmas presents were distributed on December 6th when the celebration of St. Nicholas took place.

In many countries this day is still the day of Christmas gift-giving, although there is a mounting pressure everywhere to conform to the custom of 24th/25th December. The relics of St. Nicholas are in the basilica of St. Nicola, in Bari, Italy (they were stolen from Myra in 1087 AD). For this reason he is sometimes known as St. Nicholas of Bari.

More information on St. Nicholas


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