Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy Slap-a-Heretic Day!

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas probably gets to claim the title for “more movies than Jesus” thanks to his pop culture alter ego, Santa Claus. But the real story is even better than a jolly man with flying reindeer.  He was a fourth-century Greek bishop serving in modern-day Turkey.

Legend says that a poor man had three daughters and could not afford dowries for them.  This meant that the women would not be able to wed, and would probably have to resort to prostitution.  Nicholas wanted to help them, but he was too modest to give them money in public. So that night, he threw three purses filled with coins through the open window of their house. Some versions of the story say that the daughters had left their stockings hanging over the embers to dry, and Nicholas filled the stockings with gold. It is probably from this story that the tale of Santa Claus filling stockings and delivering presents in the night originated.

St. Nicholas attended the famous Council of Nicaea in 325. One of the issues of this council was dealing with Arianism, which included the belief that Christ was not divine. As Arius was speaking, Nicholas became so enraged at the heresy, he struck Arius with his hand. For his violent outburst, he was dismissed from the council and imprisoned until some of the other bishops had visions of Christ and Mary showing sympathy with Nicholas.

And that, kids, is how Slapsgiving was born.

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of a slew of countries, as well as sailors, merchants, pawnbrokers, and of course, children. I also found out that he is the patron saint of Huguenots, which I find ironic, considering his whole anti-heretic reputation. But as a descendant of Huguenots, I’ll gladly take him.

Santa is one of those commercialized Christmas things that I actually don't mind. And maybe that's because Santa Claus represents the spirit of giving and teaches children how to anticipate Christmas. After all, Advent is all about anticipation. So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he's pretty badass. 

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