Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of one of the Church’s most beloved saints, one that most Americans don’t even realize they honor — Santa Claus. Yes, Santa Claus, which is another way of saying Saint (Santa) Nikolaos (Claus for short). Thus, when people ask me whether or not I believe in Santa Claus, I get to answer, “Absolutely! He goes to my church!”
The name “Nikolas” is actually derived from two Greek words — niki and laos — as explained in the Vespers for St. Nikolas:
Truly you have been revealed, like your name, as a mighty Victory [Niki] of the faithful People [Laos] in trials, Holy Nicolas, true servant of Christ; for invoked everywhere you come swiftly to help those who with love take refuge under your protection; for appearing night and day by faith, you save them from trials and calamities. — Stichera of Vespers for St. Nikolas
Immediately, this victory and protection is illustrated:
You appeared to the Emperor Constantine with Avlavios in a dream, and filling them with fear, you spoke to them like this, ‘Free from imprisonment at once those whom you unjustly hold in chains, for they are innocent of lawless murder. But if, Majesty, you disobey, I will make entreaty against you by beseeching the Lord.’ — Stichera of Vespers for St. Nikolas
St. Nikolas is beloved because he personifies what a bishop should be — someone not interested in power, but in putting the people before themselves.
Every year at Christmas time, people around the world hang stockings on their mantles, waiting for them to be filled with presents from St. Nikolas. Have you ever wondered where this tradition came from?
There was a poor man with three daughters who not only could not afford their dowries, but was contemplating selling them into slavery in hopes their lives would be better than what he could provide.
St. Nikolas came from a rich family and when his parents died, he inherited a fortune. When he heard about the poor man, he went in the middle of the night with three bags of gold. He went to the window and dropped the bags into three stockings hanging to dry.
Every year, people ask, how can Santa Claus get to everyone’s house in the matter of one night? The answer isn’t magic or flying reindeer. The answer is he is a saint! He participates in God’s time and is able to be in many places at the same time.
For those who wish to learn more about this great and beloved saint, might I suggest visiting the St. Nicholas Center.
Lovers of feasts, let us assemble and with songs of praise hymn the ornament of Hierarchs, the glory of the Fathers, the fount of wonders and greatest helper of believers, as we say, Rejoice O guard, august leader and immovable pillar of the people of Myra. Rejoice brightly shining beacon, who irradiate with your wonders all the ends of the earth. Rejoice divine joy of the afflicted, and most fervent defender of the wronged. And now, all-blessed Nikolas, do not cease to intercede with Christ God on behalf of those who ever honour with faith and love your joyous and all-festive memory. — Doxastikon from the Vespers for St. Nikolas