Today the church throughout the world honors St. Nicholas of Myra, the origin of what has become the Santa Claus idea (via the Dutch Sinterklass, meaning Saint Nicholas). Many places in Europe actually give the majority of their presents to each other today. Most people who study Nicholas are quite familiar with his helping of three daughters whose father could not afford a dowry, saving them from slavery or prostitution. Nicholas tried to sneakily deposit gold in the family’s house, and some versions have the gold landing in stockings drying over the fire. This is just one of many charitable acts Nicholas was known for, and in the eastern traditions of the church, he is also known as a “wonder-worker” due to the miracles associated with him.
What many people do not know however, is how committed to the orthodox Christian faith and sound doctrine Nicholas was. He was at the first Council of Nicaea in 325, and was so offended by how the heretic Arius demeaned Christ, that he slapped him across the face in front of the council! The eastern church adds that he was put under arrest for a night for this bad behavior, but then woke up in the morning with a copy of the gospels hand-delivered by Christ himself. For a good and often hilarious take on this (and an idea to “retake” Santa Claus), see this article by Gene Edward Veith:
May we all defend the orthodox Christian faith with the same zeal as Nicholas, although perhaps not with the same method!
My friend over at The Pocket Scroll posted on this last year and it is worth a read: