Welcome to Random Explanations, in which I try to explain a matter, answer a question, or concoct a theory based on a reader's suggestion. For the next few weeks, our explanations are going to center around various Christmas-related subjects. This week: What was up with the real St. Nicholas? And explain in song form, if possible.
Well, first you need to understand that, as is the case with most saints, there is a lot of folklore and legend surrounding Nicholas. Some of these tales are real and some of them are probably exaggerations that have grown out of his real character. He was born in Asia Minor in the year 270. He grew up to become a bishop and attended the Council of Nicea.
He was well known for his generosity and compassion and his secret gift giving eventually morphed into the Coca-Cola-loving jolly old elf known as Santa Claus. The most famous story about his compassion centers around a father that could not pay the dowry for his three daughters. During that time, the only other way these single women could survive was a life of prostitution (it was a messed up system). Nicholas wanted to help, but did not want to draw attention to himself. So he filled three purses with gold coins and threw them through family's window thus saving the girls from a terrible life.
Nicholas died on December 6, 343; the date is honored as his feast day (so you'll see him again later this week starring in one of his more colorful adventures).
As far as song form, you would think I would go with a tune about Santa Claus. You would be wrong. I feel like Nicholas would have been a Johnny Cash kind of guy. So...
Ol' Nicholas is comin'
He's rollin' round the bend
He's a rough and rugged bishop, but also a friend
They call him Wonderworker, for all the deeds he's done
When compassion is in question, he's second to none
When he was just a young boy, his mom and daddy died
Uncle took young Nicholas in, his faith was greatly tried
Nick punched a heretic one day, just to watch him die
Fine, he didn't kill a heretic. I am sorry I lied.
Nick became a priest then bishop, signed the Nicene Creed
He fought for orthodoxy, 'gainst poverty and greed
Well you probably know the story, 'bout the gifts he gave
When a dad could pay no dowry
Three young girls he saved
Well if St. Nick were around today
During Christmastime we'd see
Materialism giving way to generosity
We could learn from his example, that's what I'm tryin' to say
Selfless giving might blow the holiday blues away...
A huge apology to Johnny Cash for that one. It was kind of rough.