|Statue of St. Nickolas and the three children|
Bishop Nickolas lived in the fourth century. Visitors can visit the remains of his 4th Century church. He believed in living very humbly, unlike some bishops through history, and was especially concerned with adversity that came upon families burdened by debts.
|The government removed this statue in 2006|
However it happened, and many variations of the story circulate, Bishop Nickolas took coins (maybe gold or silver coins?) (his own or those of the church?) and gave them to the father in unexpected way. (One variation says he placed coins inside an open window during the summer night where they were found the next day.)
|The ENORMOUS Russian shop for souvenirs of St. Nickolas|
This is the most famous story, and there are plenty of others, too. Kindness and generosity flow from this story.
Unfortunately, the reason behind Bishop Nickolas' generosity, the life of Jesus Christ who gave life to others, showing 'agape' love, and especially his concern for children, is usually left out of the picture.
In Myra / Derme there is no hint of the gift of salvation through forgiveness of sins, that which we consider to be the greatest gift of the season. (More on this in my next blog post.)
The incredible twists and turns by which this famous, short man with a big heart became known for his Saint Nickolas' day, which is celebrated by the Orthodox Churches around the world on December 6, is a tale you might want to spend another five minutes reading.
Gradually, giving at Christmas became a custom of Western Christianity with children lining up for photos with Santa Claus in shopping malls throughout the world. The story is briefly summarized here in Wikipedia. A map and many photos are here in Google maps.