Alternatives to the Santa Clause Story

by: Stephen Marsh

December 23, 2010

I’ ve approached the Santa Claus story a number of ways.  My favorite is to treat it as the work of St. Nicholas, which everyone should join in on.

The basic story is simple.  There was a rich man from a rich family who became a bishop in the Eastern Orthodox Church.   Άγιος Νικόλαος, Aghios [“holy”] Nicolaos [“victory of the people”]) (270–6 December 343), also called Nikolaos of Myra, who was also an orphan.  His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara.  Nicholas advanced in the Orthodox Church until he too was a bishop.  In his most famous exploit, a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them.

This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment would have to become sex slaves. Hearing of the poor man’s plight, Nicholas decided to help him but being too modest to help the man in public (or to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to his house under the cover of night.  and the money ended up being thrown down the chimney and caught in stockings that had been washed and were drying.  Nicholas would go on to engage in other acts of charity, and instead of amassing a great fortune as a bishop to add to the wealth he already had, when he died he had given everything away.

Every year at Christmas time, we give gifts, as St. Nicholas did. Everyone who cares for others and gives gifts out of love or kindness, does St. Nicholas’ work.  That is why you see so many people dressed in Santa suits, why everyone is involved in the giving of gifts.  Is there a Santa?  Of course, St. Nicholas was a real person and those who carry out his work, in his spirit, are real people too.

What have you done with the Santa Claus story and which version of what you have done are you happiest with?

What do you do to do the work of St. Nicholas in preparation for this season?

14 Responses to Alternatives to the Santa Clause Story

  1. mh on December 23, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    I believe st. nicholas is the patron saint of russia.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  2. Stephen Marsh on December 23, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    He is indeed, with other interesting twists as well ;)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  3. adamf on December 23, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    I was just going to say RAEBNC, but I really like this – it’s a step beyond my usual “metaphor” explanation – not that my 3 year-old can grasp what a metaphor is anyway. Thanks.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  4. Latter-day Guy on December 23, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    He is also the patron saint of children, sailors, and prostitutes.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  5. diane on December 23, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    I think we do the work of St Nicholas by doing simple acts of kindness for people in our everyday lives.

    That being said, I’m planning on watching,” How the Grinch stole Christmas” tonight to remind me of the true spirit of giving.

    So, to all the “hoo”s in Hooville, I bid you good night. And watch the roast beast

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  6. mh on December 23, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    prostitutes? you’re going to have to back that up. do bank robbers, murderers, and other law breakers have patron saints too?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  7. Latter-day Guy on December 23, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    It comes from a legend about how he supplied gold for three sisters to have decent dowries, and so saved them from selling themselves. (Some versions have him dropping the gold through their windows, but in one version he drops it down the chimney, hence the Santa-chimney connection.) Anyway, I’m sure the prostitutes thing isn’t official, but it is a very old tradition.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  8. Stephen Marsh on December 23, 2010 at 7:56 PM

    Saint Nicholas

    Bishop of Myra, Defender of Orthodoxy, Wonderworker, Holy Hierarch

    Born c. 270 A.D. (the Ides of March)
    Patara, Lycia, Asia Minor (the Greek name for modern-day Turkey)

    Died 6 December 343 A.D.
    Myra, Lycia

    Venerated in All Christianity
    Canonized Pre-Congregation

    Major shrine Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy

    Feast 6 December (main feast day)
    19 December (some Eastern churches)[2]
    9 May (translation of relics)

    Attributes Vested as a Bishop. In Eastern Christianity, wearing an omophorion and holding a Gospel Book. Sometimes shown with Jesus Christ over one shoulder, holding a Gospel Book, and with the Theotokos over the other shoulder, holding an omophorion


    Children, sailors, fishermen, merchants, broadcasters, the falsely accused, prostitutes, repentant thieves, pharmacists, archers, pawnbrokers

    Just FYI, so yes, he was the patron saint of a number of groups.

    Although he was the patron saint of Russia, and the model for a northern invention such as Santa Claus, Nicholas of Myra was Grecian. Saint Nicholas (Bishop of Myra) replaced Sabino as the patron saint in Asia Minor during the third century in the Greek colony[7] of Patara,[8] Demre, Lycia (part of modern-day Turkey), at a time when the region was part of the Roman province of Asia and was Hellenistic in its culture and outlook.

    The historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He is also honored by various Anglican and Lutheran churches. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, and students in Greece, Belgium, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Albania, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia, and Montenegro. He is also the patron saint of Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Barranquilla, Bari, Beit Jala, Fribourg, Huguenots, Liverpool, Siggiewi, and Lorraine. He was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  9. Stephen Marsh on December 23, 2010 at 8:01 PM

    do bank robbers, murderers, and other law breakers have patron saints too?

    Repentant thieves are also with St Nicholas.

    I’ll have to do some research for the patron saint of murderers.

    Ah, mh, you were pulling our legs. You probably already knew …

    St. Nicholas of Myra

    Patron Saint Of: (Captives, Murderers, Apothecaries, Bakers, Boatmen, Children, Boys, Brewers, Brides, Mariners, Merchants, Pawn Brokers, Poor, Prisoners, Coopers, Druggists, Fishermen, Greece, Judges, Maidens, Russia, Scholars, School Children, Against Imprisonment, Against Robberies, Sicily, Students, Switzerland, Travelers, Unmarried Women)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  10. Stephen Marsh on December 23, 2010 at 8:07 PM

    Though, more commonly:

    St. Fabiola, St. Helena and St. Guntramnus are patron saints of divorced people. Guntramnus was king of Orleans and Burgundy which is now France in 561. He divorced his wife and later had her doctor murdered since he could not cure her illness. He was sorry later and protected the oppressed. He is patron saint of murderers and guardians also.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  11. Stephen Marsh on December 23, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    Just remember, any time someone invokes “historic Christianity” they mean they insist that true Christians must believe in Purgatory, venerate saints and accept similar practices.

    Strange, how few of those who try to use that label to exclude the LDS as Christians actually venerate saints.


    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  12. jack on December 26, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    My tradition is not to accumulate wealth. I hope St. Nick is proud.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  13. Stephen Marsh on December 26, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    Assuming you engage in charity instead, he should be very proud of you.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  14. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on December 29, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    Man, there’s patron saints for everything… truckers, blackhawk crewchiefs, waitresses at 1950’s type drive in burger joints that wear roller skates, the Mexican dudes in Vegas that hand out those uhhh pamphlet things, people that are into vans with no windows, potheads, Steamroller drivers, IRS receptionists, Patriot missile launcher dudes, people that wear ridiculous suits on the sidewalk to advertise for a business, people that are involved in ridiculous accidents, tire busters and buffalo farmers and bee keepers. I bet even Bernie Chavez Rico and Conrad Sundholm have saints sorta named after them…

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0


%d bloggers like this: