He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. . .
Santa Claus comes from the Dutch words “Sinter Klaas”, which is what they call their favourite saint, St. Nicholas.
Nicholas lived in what is now called Turkey. He was born about A.D. 280 in the town of Patras. His parents were wealthy and he was well educated. While still a young boy he was made Bishop of Myra, and because of this he has been known ever since as the Boy Bishop. He was renowned for his extreme kindness and generosity – often going out at night and taking presents to the needy. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.Santa’s rise to fame can be traced to two legends – the three daughters and the children at the Inn.
The Three Daughters
The first story shows his generosity. There were three unmarried girls living in Patras who belonged to a respectable family, but they could not get married because their father had lost all his money and had no dowries for the girls. The only thing the father thought he could do was to sell them when they reached the age to marry. Hearing of the imminent fate, Nicholas secretly delivered a bag of gold to the eldest daughter, who was at the right age for marriage but had despaired of ever finding a suitor. Her family was thrilled at her good fortune and she went on to become happily married.
When the next daughter came of age, Nicholas also delivered gold to her.Nicholas threw the bag through the window and it landed in the daughter’s stocking, which she had hung by the fire to dry. Another version claims that Nicholas dropped the bag of gold down the chimney.
By the time the youngest daughter was old enough for marriage, the father was determined to discover his daughters’ benefactor. He, quite naturally, thought that she might be given a bag of gold too, so he decided to keep watch all night. Nicholas, true to form, arrived and was seized, and his identity and generosity were made known to all. As similar stories of the bishop’s generosity spread, anyone who received an unexpected gift thanked St. Nicholas.
The Children at the Inn
Another one of the many stories told about St. Nicholas explains why he was made a patron saint of children. On a journey to Nicaea, he stopped on the way for the night at an inn. During the night he dreamt that a terrible crime had been committed in the building. His dream was quite horrifying. In it three young sons of a wealthy Asian, on their way to study in Athens, had been murdered and robbed by the innkeeper. The next morning he confronted the innkeeper and forced him to confess. Apparently the innkeeper had previously murdered other guests and salted them down for pork or had dismembered their bodies and pickled them in casks of brine. The three boys were still in their casks, and Nicholas made the sign of the cross over them and they were restored to life.
Over the course of many years, Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6.
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