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Santa vs. Saint Nicholas


By Jessie

A long time ago, when the world was full of wonder, there lived in a small village a poor man who had three very beautiful daughters. He was a good man, and humble, and he was dreadfully worried about what would happen to his daughters after his death, for they had no money or dowry with which to be married.

It just so happened that during a bitter December winter, on a day so cold that the bones of the dead rattled beneath the ground, a man called Nicholas came passing through. He overheard the villagers gossiping about the plight of the girls at the tavern, and felt the sharp pang of sorrow, for their fate was surely miserable.  

He knew that the old man would not accept charity. So he decided to help in secret.

That night, he crept quietly down the chimney of the family’s tiny hut with three bags of gold tightly concealed beneath his coat. Searching the room for somewhere to leave the gold, he spied the girls’ stockings, hung to dry above the dying embers in the meagre hearth. Carefully, he dropped a shining bag of gold into the top of each patched and greying stocking, and left.

Outside, an evergreen holly tree dropped three scarlet berries which gleamed like drops of blood against the stark, white snow.

In the morning, the girls and their father discovered the gold and were overcome with happiness. Each of the girls married the next spring and lived happily ever after.

Nicholas – Saint Nicholas – was never seen in the village again.


Ah Christmas. A time for nostalgia, traditions, superstitions and memories. History, mystery and magic. What’s not to love! This year, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the origins of Saint Nicholas, said to be the historical inspiration for our modern-day Santa Claus.

The life of Saint Nicholas

Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara – a port on the Mediterranean Sea. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic when he was young, and he was raised by his uncle – the Bishop of Patara. During his life, he became known for charitable deeds, protecting innocents and a penchant for secret gift-giving, but it is after death that St. Nicholas becomes a truly fascinating figure.

It is said that in Myra, Lycia (part of Turkey) the relics of St. Nicholas exude a clear, watery liquid, somewhat reminiscent of rosewater. Called manna, or myrrh, this substance is believed to possess miraculous and holy powers. Even today, a flask of manna is extracted from the tomb of St. Nicholas each year on his Feast Day (Dec 6). The myrrh is collected from a sarcophagus in the basilica vault and can even be purchased in the attached shop.

Unique amongst Saints, most of Nicholas’s bones have been preserved in the one place – his grave crypt in Bari. Incredibly, in the late 1950s, the archdiocese of Bari allowed scientists to enter the crypt to photograph and measure the remains (even with the continuing miracle of the manna!) Forensic evidence revealed that St. Nick was small – barely five feet in height, and had a broken nose.

There are many legends about the life and deeds of St. Nicholas. He is patron saint to a huge range of people - primarily children, sailors and the falsely accused, but also archers, haberdashers, teachers, repentant thieves, butchers, scholars, prostitutes, lovers, the poor, the captive and more. 

I like what St. Nicholas stands for. And I like Santa, with his twinkling eyes and love of mince pies and beer. So this Christmas, I'm putting a bit of saintliness back into the big fella, and choosing compassion over consumerism, generosity over greed.   

What's your favourite Christmas story?


The Seven Games of Christmas is NOW OPEN!

Play our festive series of puzzles and games then post your Christmas message on the Community Wall of Wishes.

A new game will be unlocked every day and the range includes a Crossword, Easy Sudoku, Christmas Trivia, Wordsearch, Code Cracker, Alphabet Mix – and look out for a very special Memory Match!

Play today’s Christmas Alphabet Mix .

Jessie x


11 Responses to

Santa vs. Saint Nicholas

December 14, 2011 at 3:43 PM

What a lovely story, beautifully told! Thank you, Jessie :-)

maggaz said:
December 14, 2011 at 7:32 PM

I agree, it was lovely to read, I do not have a favourite Xmas story. Thanks for giving us this one Jessie

December 14, 2011 at 9:18 PM

My favourite Christmas story is "The gift of the Magi" by O.Henry. It's the story of a very poor young couple, who love each other dearly. The girl, who has beautiful long hair, longs to give her husband a gift at Christmas time, but has no money for a gift. She looks in the mirror, and suddenly realises she could sell her beautiful hair and buy a handsome fob chain for his one precious possession, his grandfather's watch. She has her hair cut off, is paid twenty dollars for it, and buys the platinum chain, delighted to find the perfect gift for him. Meanwhile, her beloved has sold his watch in order to buy her a pair of beautiful tortoiseshell combs for her hair. The story can be found online, it's only a short one, so if you can find it, you may enjoy the loving irony of the gifts, and understand the title. This is the epilogue as written: "The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."

December 15, 2011 at 6:57 AM

Really enjoyed the story and the life of Saint Nicholas. Thanks, Jessie



Dr. Play said:
December 15, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Hi all, the Christmas Quick Crossword has been released and we're trialling a new font in this puzzle, the same that is used in the Lovatts range of magazines - which, by the way, make a great Christmas subscription gift! Your thoughts, comments and feedback on this new font is most welcome. Happy festive season all!

jazzyjulz said:
December 16, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Love the xmas feel and look to yp, brightens my day. Have a funtastic festive season everyone.

December 16, 2011 at 4:52 PM

Lovely story Jessie. One of my favourite xmas stories would have to be 'A Childs Christmas in Wales' - Dylan Thomas. I have an abridged version of it in a poetry book & I have always loved reading it. Merry Christmas to all at YouPlay.

margr said:
December 16, 2011 at 9:43 PM

Lovely xmas stories but I've been playing games for abt 3 hrs tonight & haven't seen any gifts for my xmas tree yet.

jazme said:
December 21, 2011 at 6:11 AM

How ironic! For the first time in ages I logon and read the story of St. Nicholas. We celebrate it every year at our club, as we did earlier this month. It's an important occassion for all the children. St Nicholas was the first and only gift giver prior to the advent of Santa Claus and the commericalisation of Christmas. It is still hugely celebrated on the European continent. Best festive wishes to all.

Padendi said:
December 22, 2011 at 11:27 PM

MARGR...look for your Xmas tree decorations on the left of screen, just under your avatar and pointscore. Click on the cartoon-like items and then go and click on "your account" to make it move to the tree. Good luck!

December 24, 2011 at 8:05 PM

Im sure your post was written with all good intentions but you may want to listen to this audio with gives more detail regarding the historical nature of Christmas and Santa Claus, and to some extent St Nicholas. The mp3 link is just below the photos and text, it very interesting.