In the late third century by Greek tradition, there was a man known simply as Nicholas. He was
born to wealthy parents in Patara, Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), in 280 AD. This was at the
time of Roman domination of most of the world. Nicholas was by faith a Greek Orthodox
Christian—one of many such folks who were the objects of Roman persecution under Emperor
Diocletian. When Nicholas’ parents died from a plague, being their only child, he inherited their
wealth. He aspired to the popular concept of that day of giving away all his wealth and living a
humble life, so he gave to the poor generously, but also anonymously, as he wanted the credit to
go to God.
There was a merchant in his town who had gone bankrupt. He lost his house and property. He had three daughters and feared that creditors would also seize his daughters to sell into slavery in payment for his debt, the prevention of which could be made possible only if they were married.
But for marriage to be legal in that place and time, a dowry had to be paid, which the family simply did not have.
When Nicholas heard of this family’s plight, he developed a plan. Late one night, he discreetly
threw a bag of money through an open window of their home for the eldest daughter. It landed
in a stocking (or shoe) that was placed by the fireplace to dry. This process was repeated for all
three daughters. Although it is doubtful that three bags of money always landed in stockings,
nonetheless, it became the talk of the town.
Subsequently, Nicholas traveled to Myra, became a bishop and later a “saint,” but this story of
“St. Nick” had so widely spread that the tradition of midnight visits, secret gift-giving and
hanging stockings by the fireplace survived and was celebrated annually on December 6 from the
time of 343 AD. It continues to this day, although the celebration date has been slightly altered
by three weeks.
I am not sure how “Nick” became “Claus” or the origin of the red suit.
In my personal honor to the greatest gift humanity has ever known--
Merry Christmas to our Christian friends, Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends and Happy Holidays to others of all (or no) faiths. The act of giving brings all humanity joy and fulfillment.