Monsignor Charles Pope points us today an excellent piece by Danny Hakim titled, "Poles Apart: Nicholas of Myra and Jolly Saint Nick."
Saint Nicholas of Myra is, of course, the historical basis for the jolly, fat man we know today as Santa Claus, who sneaks down chimneys and leaves presents for good girls and boys. In exploring the historical reality of Santa Claus, Hakim notes that,
On the one hand, we have the modern Santa, a porcine, jolly man who resides at the North Pole with a woman known only as Mrs. Claus. He has domesticated a stable of nine deer, and enjoys the cheerful services of a retinue of elfin assistants. He is very, very nice to children.
On the other hand, we have the ancient Santa. Saint Nicholas. Paintings show a thin man. HeI encourage you to read the entire article, which provides a good historical background in an humorous and clever manner.
was spare of frame, flinty of eye, pugnacious of spirit. In the Middle Ages, he was known as a
brawling saint. He had no particular sense of humor that we know of. He could be vengeful,
wrathful, an embittered ex- con. According to legend, even after death he horsewhipped
someone. Yes, he became the patron saint of children, but his was a promiscuous sainthood.
Over the years, he was also the patron saint of sailors, whores, moneylenders and thieves. No
doubt, Saint Nick was a good man. A noble man. But a hard man. How did time turn him soft?