In earlier times, there were actual people who embodied the idea of Santa Claus in various places, and there are stories in several countries that tell of someone who comes on Christmas with gifts. If you call the person Santa Claus, I heard that once there was a Catholic priest in Germany by the name of Claus who rode through the country with a sleigh giving out toys to children. I have also heard that in Italy, there was an old woman who went around giving out toys. If you call Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, you can actually trace the place he was from, Turkey. I have heard they have a church dedicated to Saint Nicholas in Turkey. People know enough about Saint Nicholas to know he actually existed, but he wasn’t’ magical. He was a very dedicated rich Christian.
Everyone knows that Turkey is a Muslim country, but it hasn’t always been that way. If you read the Bible, there are letters to churches that are in Turkey. The one I know for sure was in Turkey was Ephesus. In early times, Istanbul was called Constantinople, and many of the early historical church councils were held in Constantinople. It was important in the eastern part of Europe like Rome has been in the western part of Europe when it comes to Christianity. Everyone wonders why Turkey is Muslim today when they hear this. It is because in the early days of Islam, the way they converted people was by conquering them. They went into a place, held knives to people’s throats, and said, “Convert to Islam or die.” People converted on the outside, but not on the inside just like a famous church building that the Muslims took in Istanbul. They covered it over with paint and changed it to be a Mosque, and when the paint started chipping, people found that there was a beautiful church building under the paint. As generations went on, the newer generations eventually accepted Islam because they had not been taught anything about Christianity and their parents were Islamic, at least on the outside to preserve their lives.
As for Saint Nicholas, he was one of the Christians who lived in Turkey before the Muslims arrived. He was an orphan, but not a poor orphan. His parents were rich and had left all the money to him. He wasn’t worried about his riches. What he was worried about was Christianity. He loved Christianity! He spent all his time studying about God and trying to be the best Christian he could be. He didn’t marry, and eventually decided to become a priest. He had a soft heart for the people, and he was always giving money and gifts away to people he saw.
Once, he heard about a family that was very poor, so poor that they were going to have to sell their children into slavery to survive. He heart was rent in two. There were two sisters, and one was going to be sold, and later, they were going to sell the second sister. He couldn’t imagine selling a child into slavery. He wanted to stop what was happening. The girl had resigned herself to it. She was going to be sold the next day. She washed her socks and hung them by the window to dry and went to bed to sleep. During the night, Saint Nicholas brought money and threw it through the window into her socks that were hanging at the window. They next morning, when she woke up, she found the price her parents would have received had she been sold in her socks. She didn’t have to be sold!
However, the family was still poor, and the time came for the second sister to be sold into slavery. Saint Nicholas did the same thing again. He threw money through the window, the exact price it would have taken for the girl to be bought, and she didn’t have to be sold either.
People heard about what he did, but at first they didn’t know it was him. It just so happened that all this happened around Christmas time, and the people liked what happened so much they began giving gifts at Christmas too remembering what happened ti the girls, and Saint Nicholas enjoyed giving gifts. He went around making sure all the children had gifts. Eventually, people figured out that it was Saint Nicholas who had given the money for the girls not to sold into slavery.
If you know very much about saints, there are conditions for them to become saints. In early Christianity, if you read the Bible, the word “saint” merely meant “Christian.” However, the meaning has gradually changed. When I was teaching Orthodox nuns in the seminary in Sibiu, Romania, I learned the conditions of a saint. First, they must be dead. After that, there must be some sort of miracle associated with them, and third, they had to be known to be good. His miracle was saving the girls from slaver y, and he had an excellent reputation, so after he died, he was declared a saint. Perhaps I will tell you about the Orthodox nuns and their saint in another blog. This blog has been all about Santa Claus who has many names: Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Sfintu Nicholai, Mos Craciun, etc. etc. Many people in many countries appreciate what this man started. He has become the spirit of Christmas.