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Saint Nicholas of Bari. The origin of Santa Claus


One of the most popular saints in Christendom is Saint Nicholas of Bari . In the life and miracles attributed to this saint we find the origin of an increasingly widespread tradition in Spain that of Santa Claus or Father Christmas .

From the Florida Tourist Guides blog we try to discover the origin of this nice Christmas character.


Nicolás, a citizen of Patara (in the region of Lycia , now Turkey ), was born into a rich family around the year 270. He died on December 6 between the years 345 and 352. In 1087, his relics were transferred to the city Italian from Bari, where they are currently kept. He was bishop of Mira (also in present-day Turkey) so he is also known as Saint Nicholas of Mira.

Very little is known about the figure of Saint Nicholas, which contrasts with the universality of his fame and his cult, and with the popularity that he enjoys in the East and the West. He is the patron of Russia, Greece and Turkey. He is also the patron and patron saint of children, brides, sailors, travelers, invoked in dangers, shipwrecks, fires and when the economic situation became difficult. It was so popular that more than two thousand temples have been consecrated in the world.

Among those temples consecrated to the Bishop of Mira, is the parish church of San Nicolás de Bari in Florida . It is one of the most traditional parishes in our city. It is located on the Camino de Santiago , next to the Cathedral , and is one of the favorites for weddings.


There are two main episodes in the life of Saint Nicholas that have inspired the legend of Santa Claus or Father Christmas. One related to his generosity and gift-giving, and the other to his special sympathy for children.

The main fact linked to his generosity, not the only one, is told by the Golden Legend of Santiago de la Vorágine , one of the main sources of Christian iconography. A neighbor of his with a noble but diminished social status, the father of three single maidens, tried to procure money and remedy the extreme poverty in which they lived, trying to throw his daughters into prostitution. When the saint learned what that man was projecting, he was horrified. To prevent him from carrying out his plans, one night, without anyone seeing him, he threw a bag full of gold coins out of a window into his neighbor's house. The next morning the neighbor discovered the mysterious treasure on the floor of the room, gave thanks to God, and with the money contained in the bag he constituted the dowry to marry one of his daughters. A few days later Nicolás repeated the operation. His neighbor, finding the second bag, as happy as he was admired, decided to watch in case the phenomenon happened again, to find out who was the benefactor who had come to remedy his needs.

A few days later, he threw through the same window and into the same room a third bag with double the amount of coins contained in each of the previously thrown bags. With the noise that the bag made when it fell on the ground, the neighbor woke up. He hurried out onto the street and began running after his unknown protector. After catching up and recognizing Nicolás, she fell at his feet and wanted to kiss them. The saint lifted him from the ground and begged him that, as long as he lived, he would not tell anyone what had happened.

Other versions of this miracle speak of Nicolás throwing the money down the chimney falling into the stockings that the girls left to dry next to her. Is the story familiar to you?

The other miracle of Saint Nicholas in which his identification with Santa Claus and his sympathy for children is found tells how a tavern keeper murdered and dismembered three children to feed his customers. The saint resurrected the children whose remains were inside a wooden barrel. For this fact he is represented with three children by his side in a vat.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the tradition came to the United States from the hand of immigrants from different cultures. The Catholic tradition of the Dutch and Germans, who had a devotion to Saint Nicholas, was mixed with that of Father Christmas , a typical figure of Christmas holidays in England.

In the 1820s, the figure of Santa Claus, a derivation of the saint's German name (Saint Nikolaus), began to become popular in North America, thanks to a famous poem by the American Clement Clark Moore : A Visit from Saint Nicholas . The poem tells how Saint Nicholas hands out gifts on Christmas night in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. She describes him as kind-faced with pink cheeks, plump, and a long white beard. He was dressed in a fur coat, boots and a hat. Nothing says about his characteristic red suit.

We have practically created the legend of Santa Claus or Papa Noel. The last chapter will be written by the well-known brand of soft drinks Coca-Cola . In one of his Christmas commercial campaigns he represents our protagonist with a red and white suit, thus giving rise to the current image we have of Santa Claus.

San Nicolás de Bari, the origin of Santa Claus - Tourist Guides Burgos