December 9th – The Legend of Saint Nicholas

Ever wondered where Santa Claus comes from? (Besides the North Pole of course). Saint Nicholas was a Bishop in ancient Greece who was noted for his generosity, here’s a little tale from around 300 AD showing just how generous he was. I think you’ll see some obvious similarities!

The Legend of Saint Nicholas
Ancient Folktale (adapted from William S. Walsh’s 1914 retelling)

Long ago, Saint Nicholas was Bishop of the town of Myra. There were among his people three beautiful maidens, daughters of a man who had fallen on hard times. Their father was so poor that he could not afford to give them dowries, and in that land no maid could marry without a dowry, so these three maidens could not wed the young men who loved them.

At last the father became so very poor that he no longer had money to buy food or clothes for his daughters, and he was overcome by sorrow. As for the daughters they wept continually, for they were both cold and hungry.

One day Saint Nicholas heard of the sad state of this family. So at night, when the maidens were asleep, the good saint took a handful of gold, and, tying it in a purse, set off for the family’s house. Creeping to the open window he threw the purse into the room, so that it fell on the bed of the eldest maiden.

In the morning, the father picked up the purse, and when he opened it and saw the gold, he rejoiced greatly, and awakened his daughters. He gave most of the gold to his eldest child for a dowry, and thus she was able to wed the young man whom she loved.

The next night Saint Nicholas filled another purse with gold, and, as before, went by night to the family’s house, and tossed the purse through the open window. Thus the second daughter was able to marry the young man whom she loved.

Now, the father felt very grateful to this charitable person and he longed to know who it was. So the next night he watched beneath the open window. But Saint Nicholas had heard of the father’s plan, and not wanting to be caught, devised to drop the third purse of gold down the chimney. When all was dark, good Saint Nicholas came for the third time, carrying a silken purse filled with gold. He tossed it down the chimney where it landed in the youngest maiden’s stocking, which had been set by the fireplace to dry.

At first, the father was disappointed that he had not discovered their benefactor that third night. But in the morning when the youngest maiden put on her stocking she discovered the purse of gold. The maiden and her family rejoiced! For all three sisters would be able to wed and there would be enough gold for food and clothing.  

And out on the street, good Saint Nicholas looked in on the happy family, and smiled.


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