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3rd century saint might be prototype for Santa

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Updated: December 5, 2012 4:10PM



I love Christmas as a religious holiday but, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of the secular celebration. Impossible traffic, hoards of snarky people, cheesy decorations and the pressure. There’s pressure to do everything; make everything perfect; and get it all done now.

Today, however, is a special day I always enjoy celebrating — St. Nicholas Day.

In case you aren’t familiar with this 3rd century saint, he came from a region that’s now in the southern part of Turkey. As a fairly young boy, both parents died in an epidemic. Taking the teachings of his Christian upbringing seriously, Nicholas used his hefty inheritance to help those in great need around him. Later in life, Nicholas became a bishop.

As the legend goes, there was a man in the area who had three daughters. He was so poor he could not afford a dowry for the girls, shameful in itself but also assuring they would end up with pond scum for husbands.

Nicholas heard about this, and passing by the poor man’s home one night, he tossed a bag of gold into the window, where it fell into a stocking hung by the fire to dry. On a subsequent night a second bag of gold was tossed, and then a third. The girls all had proper dowries but the giver — Nicholas — remained anonymous.

St. Nicholas, it’s believed, was the prototype for Santa Claus. He was the creator of random acts of kindness. He didn’t give because he expected something in return. He never expected or wanted recognition. Nicholas gave with a true spirit of generosity and that’s why I think he’s so cool.

Have you every received something that caused you to think that yes, there is a Santa Claus?

Barbara McLean, Highland: Years ago, I attended a Catholic grade school. My parents scrimped and saved to be able to afford the tuition. Then one summer, my dad lost his job. I can still remember the tears in his eyes when he told me I wouldn’t be able to return to my school the next term. As I was preparing myself for a different school, my dad came into my room one day. This time he was openly crying and carrying a letter. Our principal was writing to tell us that an anonymous donor would be paying my tuition until my dad got back on his feet. I say a prayer of gratitude for that person even today.

Hank Rapp; Schererville: It was the last blizzard we had. My foot was in a cast and my son was stuck out of town. I went out, thinking I would take my time and shovel out but it didn’t take long to realize I just couldn’t do it with my foot. That night I went to bed thinking I would try to find someone to get me out the next day. In the middle of the night, I heard a scraping noise so I hobbled down the stairs to look out the window. The driveway was clean but there wasn’t a truck or a soul in sight. I never got a bill and no one owned up to the good deed. It made me feel there are still good people in the world.



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