Nicholas was a fourth-century bishop of Myra, a town in what is now southwestern Turkey, and we remember him because of the stories which have given him “a perpetual name for deeds of kindness on land and sea.”
Nothing certain is known about his life, but the people of the Church held him in high honour from a very early date and many stories came to be told about him. The most famous of these legends tells of his merciful generosity. Once there were three sisters whose parents were so poor that they thought of selling them. Bishop Nicholas heard of the sisters’ plight and tossed three bags of gold onto their doorstep — thus providing them with dowries for marriage and saving them from a life of prostitution. That is why he is considered the special protector of children. In memory of his deed of mercy to the three sisters, the Dutch developed the custom of giving gifts to children on his feast-day. They brought this custom to America, where it became associated with Christmas rather than the feast of Nicholas — and where “Sant Nikolaas” was changed into “Santa Claus.”
Another story tells how a company of seafarers were caught in a storm off the coast of Asia Minor. The waves were swamping their ship, and the mariners were nearly at their wits’ end when they remembered what they had heard about the bishop of Myra. Though he was still alive, the sailors cried out his name and implored his help. The legend says that Nicholas himself suddenly appeared in the rigging of their ship and calmed the storm, so that the ship and all who were in it came safely to port.
Nicholas is considered the patron saint of many other groups besides children and sailors. The common thread in all these claims on his heavenly protection is his legendary kindness to those in need — and his special care of those who follow his storied example by aiding the desperate, the needy, and the sick.
Saint Nichlolas Golden Icon Saint George's Church Madaba Jordan