Santa Claus

Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Noel Baba ... whatever you call the beloved symbol of Christmas, you probably imagine him living in the North Pole, surrounded by elves and reindeer.

But the real St. Nicholas lived in a warm, sunny town on the Mediterranean Sea -- in what is now Turkey.

St. Nicholas was born in the town of Patara in 245 A.D. When he was young, his father died and left Nicholas a great fortune. Instead of spending it on himself, Nicholas started anonymously giving the money to the needy, especially children.

Nicholas eventually became the Bishop of Myra (modern-day Demre in Turkey), where he performed several miracles, including saving sailors from drowning and resurrecting three boys who had been killed by an evil butcher. Today, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, sailors, teachers, students and merchants.

But the most famous St. Nicholas story led to the legend of Santa Claus. A nobleman who lived with his three daughters had fallen on hard times. The daughters had no chance of marriage, since their father could not pay their dowries.

One night, St. Nicholas threw a sack of gold through a window of the nobleman's shabby castle, which was enough for one daughter's marriage. The next night, he tossed another sack of gold through the window for the second daughter.

But on the third night, the window was closed. So, St. Nicholas climbed onto the roof and dropped the sack down the chimney. The next morning, the daughters found the gold in the stockings they had hung to dry by the fireplace.

Hence the tradition of hanging stockings on Christmas Eve, awaiting a visit from St. Nick.

Source: Illinous Institute of Technology

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