By Catholic Digest Staff
Feast Day: December 6
A fourth century bishop born in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor, Nicholas was known for his devoutness, compassion, and love of justice. Elected the bishop of Myra, he was imprisoned and then released during a period of Christian persecutions. Nicholas became an advocate to rescue the innocent who’d been wrongly condemned, facing off against governors and even Emperor Constantine over the matter. While the majority of traditions and customs associated with Nicholas were created long after his death, they are still celebrated today. It’s believed that Nicholas’ parents were wealthy and passed away when he was young, leaving him a great fortune. A pious young man, he decided to use his newly bestowed riches to help those in need. When he heard about a man who had gone bankrupt and was going to give his three daughters to a brothel, Nicholas covertly intervened. During the night he threw three bags of gold, one for each girl, inside the man’s house through a window, saving the girls and enabling the family to stay together. While the story is a well established legend, it is thought to perhaps be the origin of a far stranger tale in which Nicholas resurrected three innocent children who had been killed and pickled in a brine barrel by an evil innkeeper. Scholars speculate that perhaps the three bags of gold in antiquated paintings may have been mistaken for children’s heads. Another legend claims that the three golden balls that compose the traditional pawnbrokers symbol, adopted from the Medici family coat of arms, may have come from the account of Nicholas’ actions. Today in England alone there are over four hundred churches dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of many countries and cities, including Russia, Greece, Sicily, and Lorraine.