December 6 is St. Nicholas Day!

St. Nicholas (the fourth century bishop of Myra, a province of Asia Minor) is not only the subject of many legends, he's also the real man behind "Santa's" beard.  The red-vested cleric also enjoys the lead in Benjamin Britten's cantata, Saint Nicholas, the lyrics of which are tell the life and legends of Nicholas, all of which you can read about and listen to here.

A little more research reveals that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of:
Apothecaries, Bakers, Barrel Makers, Boatmen, Boot Blacks, Boys, Brewers, Brides, Captives, Children, Coopers, Dock Workers, Druggists, Fishermen, Greece, the Greek Catholic Church in America, Grooms, Judges, Lawsuits lost unjustly, Longshoremen, Maidens, Mariners, Merchants, Murderers, Newlyweds, Parish Clerks, Paupers, Pawnbrokers, Perfumers, Pharmacists, Pilgrims, Poor people, Portsmouth - England, Prisoners, Russia, Sailors, Scholars, Schoolchildren, Shoe Shiners, Sicily, Students, Thieves, Travelers, and Unmarried girls!
You can study the life of St. Nicholas here in icons and stories.

In some countries DECEMBER 6 is the day for gift-giving and not December 25. So you might want to surprise a friend or family member with a little gift today. It doesn't need to be something you shop for, charge and wrap in paper and ribbons - the best gifts come from the heart!

To understand the curious painting above, check out the story of how the first "Santa Claus" (SAiNT Ni'CLAS) brought gifts not down a chimney, but through a window (scroll down after the jump).

And here's everything else you ever wanted to know about St. Nicholas!


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