Updated: Dec 23, 2021
A few years ago, I received a letter postmarked ‘the North Pole’ and you can imagine my surprise; as usually I send letters to that address instead of receiving them. Fear shot through me as my trembling hand held the letter from the Jolly Old Elf himself. Had I been so naughty that a personalized memo had been necessitated?
Finally, I could wait no longer and opened the neatly handwritten envelope. I was stunned by the contents: Santa had a conflict and wanted me to take his place for a few hours at an event in Toronto. Me, I thought? Why me? I know I have gained a few pounds over the years, but surely I am not plump? My hair is greying, but nowhere near white. It could only be one thing; my bubbling personality.
What would I tell people who asked pointed questions about my origin? What if they wanted to know my background? Sure, Santa has been around forever and lives at the North Pole with Mrs. Claus… I think. It was time to do a little research so as not to be caught without answers.
The entire tale started around 300 BCE when a young, privileged boy, Nicholas, was born in what is now Turkey. At an early age, his parents passed away during a plague, and Nicholas decided to follow a life of assisting the poor. He gave all of his family's wealth to those in need, and when he was still quite young, he was made Bishop of Myra, the town where he lived.
Nicholas suffered for his faith under Roman rule, and was imprisoned. Finally, after a lengthy sentence, he was released and continued his work. When he died he was buried in the local church and his remains mysteriously turned to manna, a substance known to have healing powers. Needless to say, people flocked from everywhere to visit the site and have their ailments cured.
One story told of a poor man with three daughters, none of whom had a dowry. One night, as if by a miracle, three gold balls were tossed through the window, and landed in the girls’ stockings, which were hung by the fireplace to dry. This miracle was attributed to St. Nicholas, and children began to hang stockings on their fireplaces in hopes of receiving gifts.
St. Nicholas is well known as a protector of children, a legend which dates back to the night of his death. Townsfolk were gathered around when a band of Arabs attacked, looted the church and snatched a young boy to become a slave for their ruler. A year later to the day, while people were celebrating the life of St. Nicholas, the young boy magically reappeared, unharmed.
Word spread quickly, as did stories of wonderful deeds attributed to the boy from Myra. When still alive, Nicholas had made a pilgrimage to the holy land. Upon return, a raging storm at sea was about to capsize the boat. Nicholas calmly knelt and began to pray, and miraculously the storm subsided. Now, sailors from everywhere pray to St. Nicholas for calm seas and safe voyages.
The tomb of St. Nicholas became a popular pilgrimage; however, people were co