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ST. NICOLAS - OUR PATRON SAINT

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The historical saint was a Greek called Nikolaos (in English "Nicolas", although often spelled "Nicholas").  He is thought to have been born about 270 AD in Patara (in modern-day Turkey) and became Bishop of Myra (in south-west Turkey).  He had a reputation as a healer, as a theologian and as a generous and charitable Christian leader. He was thought to be one of the bishops summoned to the Council of Nicea (AD 325)although there is little historical evidence to support this tradition. He died in Myra and was buried there, although his bones were later carried off to Bari in Apulia, Italy, where they are still venerated. His death is said to have occurred in 343 AD on 6th December and this day, our Patronal Festival, is celebrated in many different countries as St. Nicolas' Day.  Our church is one of around 400 in England which were dedicated to him.

There are few historical records which mention Nicolas of Myra although his popularity from the earliest times is attested by the many legends about him. Among them is the tale of St. Nicolas giving three bags of gold as marriage dowries for three unmarried girls in order to save them being sold into slavery. This is thought to be the origin of the three golden balls that became the symbol of St. Nicolas and later of pawnbrokers. Another legend tells of St. Nicolas raising three dead boys to life after they had been murdered by a butcher and pickled in tubs of brine. Yet another recounts his miraculous rescue of three sailors off the coast of Turkey. Benjamin Britten's cantata Saint Nicolas recounts many of the legends about him.

The tales of St. Nicolas' generosity have been turned into the traditional figure of "Santa Claus" who is said to travel on Christmas Eve to leave presents for poor children at Christmas, punishing children who have been naughty and rewarding those who have been good.

St. Nicolas is the patron saint of Russia as well as of children, sailors, pawnbrokers, unmarried girls, merchants, brewers, perfumiers, apothecaries and many others - indeed one website lists over 90 professions or places for whom St. Nicolas is their patron.

If you would like to read more about this popular and intriguing figure, please check out the links below.

Wikipedia has an article about the saint here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Nicolas

and another about the saint in the guise of Santa Claus here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus

There is a whole website about him here www.stnicholascenter.org

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