Saint Nicholas


Who was Saint Nicholas?

Born: March 15, 270 A.D.
Died: December 6, 346 A.D.
Greek name: Hagios Nikolaos
Latin name: Sanctus Nicolaus
Location: Myra (in modern-day Turkey)
Feast day: December 6
Also known as: Nikolaos the Wonderworker, Nikolas of Bari

Much of the real Saint Nicholas has been lost in the legendary development of the figure known as Santa Claus.

The Early Life of Saint Nicholas

Nicholas was born in the city of Patara (modern-day Turkey) on the Mediterranean Sea. In his day, this area was infused with Greek culture and Greek people, of which Nicholas was one.

Nicholas was an only child, born to devout Christian parents. When his parents died from disease, Nicholas was given to his uncle, who was the bishop of Patara. This uncle was guide him into Christian service.

As a clergyman, Nicholas participated in the famous Council of Nicea. {1} Nicholas was opposed to Arius’ theological contentions, which was that Jesus Christ was created and not divine. Nicholas was a signer of the Nicene Creed itself:

We believe in one God, 
the Father, the Almighty, 
maker of heaven and earth, 
of all that is, seen and unseen. 

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
the only Son of God, 
eternally begotten of the Father, 
God from God, Light from Light, 
true God from true God, 
begotten, not made, 
of one Being with the Father. 
Through him all things were made. 
For us and for our salvation 
he came down from heaven: 
by the power of the Holy Spirit 
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, 
and was made man. 
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; 
he suffered death and was buried. 
On the third day he rose again 
in accordance with the Scriptures; 
he ascended into heaven 
and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, 
and his kingdom will have no end. 

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, 
who proceeds from the Father and the Son. 
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. 
He has spoken through the Prophets. 
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. 
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. 
We look for the resurrection of the dead, 
and the life of the world to come. Amen. 

The Legend of Saint Nicholas

There is a significant amount of stories and legends that have grown up around Saint Nicholas in the centuries following his death. What’s generally believed to be true is that Nicholas enjoyed giving anonymous gifts to people, including money. A central aspect of his reputation involves his giving of gifts to children. {2}

Some stories recount that Nicholas would hide coins inside the clothing of children, such as in their shoes or socks. Today, Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of many groups, including sailors, thieves, and children.

Virtually every Christian denomination honors Saint Nicholas in some way, including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and several Protestant churches, for example, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians.

The Relics of Saint Nicholas

In the last two millenniums, the bones of Saint Nicholas have moved from modern-day Turkey to Europe in attempt to keep them safe from invaders and thieves.

In December 2009, the Turkish government asked that the relics of Saint Nicholas be returned from their resting place in Italy. To date the relics haven’t been transferred.


1. The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787) Their History and Theology. Liturgical Press, 1990, page 58

2. The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas. Howard Books. pp. 14–17