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Christmas: Santa Claus

Who was Saint Nicholas?

boy standing in front of man wearing Santa Claus costumeThe name 'Santa Claus' comes from Saint Nicholas who was Bishop of Myra, which is now in Turkey. There are no historical documents about him, so everything we know comes from old traditional stories. Here are some of the things people think they know about Saint Nicholas:

  • He was born in the ancient Lycian seaport of Patar.
  • He travelled to Palestine and Egypt, and then became Bishop of Myra.
  • He was imprisoned during the Roman Emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians.
  • He was released under the rule of the Christian Emperor Constantine.
  • He died in Myra on 6th December 345 or 352, where his shrine became famous.
  • His body was moved to Bari in Italy in 1087, where the new shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage.

Nicholas was remembered for his kindness and generosity and many legends came to be told about him. Saint Nicholas' Day is celebrated each year on 6th December. On this day Dutch children will put out a wooden clog and in the morning they find it full of special chocolate and sweet treats. In Britain, he is celebrated on Christmas Eve, December 24th, when he is remembered as bringing gifts to children.