Jolly Old Saint Nick

“What would Santa drink” was published last year in All About Beer Magazine and tells another side of the story of Nicholas of Myra, patron saint and protector of children, patron saint of sailors, prisoners, travelers, Italians, Belgians, Russians, prostitutes (remind me to look up the etymological history of  ”Ho, Ho, Ho” sometime), students, firefighters, coopers, pawnbrokers, bankers, merchants, archers, judges, butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers… and BREWERS.

Saint Nicholas was born in what is now Turkey, which at the time was Greek (Lycia) and ruled by the Roman  emperor Diocletian, a naughty tyrant who persecuted Christians.  His successor (forget Maximian), Constantine legalized Christianity and called the Council of Nicaea which established the Nicene Creed (plus when to celebrate Easter).  St. Nick attended that first ecumenical council:

According to one account, when confronted by the unyielding Arias, Nicholas slapped him in the face. For such a breach of decorum, Nicholas was brought before Constantine, who stripped him of his office and had him thrown into prison.

Then there is the story of Saint Nicholas the Tea Partier:

The people of Myra begged Bishop Nicholas to ask the emperor for relief from the high taxes which were causing much hardship. Nicholas went to plead their cause with Constantine. The emperor granted a large reduction, giving Nicholas a copy of the order. The bishop immediately put the document on a stick and threw it into the sea. Soon afterwards it was found and taken to the authorities in Myra. The order was immediately put into effect, substantially lowering the taxes. Meanwhile Constantine, whose finance ministers had convinced him that this lost revenue would seriously harm the royal treasury, summoned Nicholas to return the document for revision. Nicholas reported that the order was already in effect in Myra. Doubting this, Constantine sent a runner to determine the truth. When Nicholas’ words were confirmed the emperor allowed the reduction to stand. A century later Myra still enjoyed low taxation which the people attributed to St. Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas was canonized by public acclamation:

In the Middle Ages Saint Nicholas, along with Martin of Tours, was celebrated as a true people’s saint because of the way he lived. This was unusual as most early saints were martyrs who had died for their faith. Nicholas was surely an early example of a saint who was honored for the witness of his life. Nicholas was a saint whose life bore witness to God’s work through a life of social value, lived carrying out God’s will. Both Nicholas and Martin lived to an old age and died peacefully. This may be one reason they were so very popular: They were examples of how to live, rather than how to die in times of persecution.

Therefore Nicholas does not have a date for formal canonization. Rather, the record shows a gradual spread of reverence until a widespread level of recognition and practice established him as a saint everywhere.


While children in the US leave Santa Claus milk and cookies, children in Belgium leave Santa a nice glass of beer.



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