NICKOLAOS OF MYRA AND THE LEGEND OF SANTA CLAUS
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© April 2021, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Many people believe that the legend of Santa Claus is completely fake, perhaps made up by the toy industry. However, this is not the truth!
In fact, the legend of Santa Claus is based on the very true story of a wonderful man, Nickolaos of Myra. He later became known as Saint Nickolas within the Catholic Church. “Santa Claus” is a German translation of Saint Nickolas.
NOTE: The story of St. Nickolaos in this article is somewhat different from that found in standard history books. The reason is that Emperor Constantine wanted a few details changed. He is mentioned later in the article.
Nickolaos (270 AD to 343 AD) was born in the city of Patara, a port on the Mediterranean Sea near present-day Turkey. He was the only child of wealthy Greek parents. His parents were not Christians, as some history books say.
In fact, there was no “Christian religion” in 370 AD! His parents followed the Roman multi-god religion mainly because they lived within the Roman Empire and the religion was mandatory.
Hebrew influence. The parents of Nickolaos died in an influenza epidemic when he was four years old. His uncle took him in and raised him. This uncle was a secret follower of the one-God religion of the Hebrews (the words Jew and Jewish did not exist and only came into being 1000 years later).
At that time, anyone who did not believe in the Roman gods had to do so secretly. The uncle of Nickolaos was one of those who secretly preferred the one-God religion, as the Hebrew religion was also called. He was quite a scholar, in fact, and even had a scroll, today called a Torah, hidden in the house.
Living with his uncle was a wonderful experience for Nickolaos. The boy became very interested in religion and learned a lot from his uncle.
Yeshua. Besides learning the basic Hebrew teachings, Nickolaos’ uncle also shared with him the teachings of a recent prophet named Yeshua (pronounced YESHua or shortened to Yesh). We know him by his Roman name, Jesus.
His name means a balanced type of love in a very ancient Hebrew dialect. Every time you say the word yes you are saying his name.
He had lived nearby in Canaan almost 300 hundred years before. (Present-day Israel was always known as Canaan, not Palestine, as some teach. The word Palestine was a British word and was not used until the twentieth century.)
THE TEACHINGS OF YESHUA
Yeshua taught that the Hebrew religion had become too complex. He suggested simplifying it and reducing the number of holidays and rituals that had grown up over the years.
Yeshua also simplified some of the Hebrew doctrines, such as the concept of the soul. He said the soul is simply a small being that lives inside the body and animates it and runs it. The Hebrew Bible was vague about this and about many other aspects of the soul.
Yeshua also taught love first. He said “Love God” and “Love thy neighbor”. He also taught the importance of the Kosher laws about food and diet, and he taught the importance of the Seven Laws For The Children Of Noah and the Ten Commandments Of Moses.
For example, he taught that one must be circumcised, as the law required (see Acts 15: 1-25). He also taught that one must observe the Sabbath day on Saturday, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
Yeshua also taught that God wants us to be happy. Many Hebrew people were too serious, he said. Yesh had also performed many miracles, which he said occurred because he had a lot of faith in the Father, which is how he referred to the One God.
What Yeshua did not teach. This is controversial and will offend some people, though that is not the intent!
I am told that Yeshua did not teach the trinity, he did not call himself the messiah, he did not say he died to atone for our sins, and he did not start a new religion. He simply wanted to simplify and restore the Hebrew faith to its former truth.
I am told that the other doctrines above were added by the Roman Emperor Constantine at the meeting that has become famously known as the Council of Nicea.
The Priesthood. Most importantly, Yeshua suggested getting rid of the Hebrew priesthood of the Pharisees and the Sadducees that had become the leaders of the Hebrews.
In earlier times, Yaweh and Yehovah had been the leaders. They could not be seen, but prophets talked to them and they gave the people directions. Things had gone well under their direction. When the Hebrew people moved away from them, things had deteriorated.
When the Romans conquered Canaan around the year 100 BC, matters became much worse for the Hebrews. The Romans liked the priesthood and elevated it to the status of “rulers of the Hebrews”. In fact, the Romans were secretly in control!
A VERY RELIGIOUS YOUNG MAN
By practicing the recommended diet, lifestyle and mental exercise recommended by his uncle, Nickolaus became very healthy and strong at a young age. At a young age, he became quite developed, as we use the word on this website. For details, read Introduction To Development.
Becoming a rabbi. At about the age of 15, Nickolaos decided to become a religious teacher. Some history books say that Nickolaos became a “Christian bishop”. However, in fact, there was no organized Christian religion at that time. Later, he would be given the title of Bishop of the Roman Church by Emperor Constantine.
Becoming a religious teacher was a momentous decision. He said an angel had visited him in the night and told him that this was his future.
Nickolaos decided he would teach the Hebrew religion and help revive it. The Romans had destroyed the Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the Hebrew religion was officially banned. However, the Roman Empire had split into two parts and was weaker. Some other men were openly preaching the Hebrew doctrines and Nickolaos wanted to do the same.
In those days, there were no seminaries or religious colleges. To become a teacher, one had to find a knowledgeable person with whom to study. After a number of years of study, the older one blessed you and sent you out to teach the people.
In this case, finding a teacher was easy. Nickolaos would obtain his training from his uncle, with whom he lived. Within five years, he knew the scriptures in Hebrew and more, and was ready to begin his life as a traveling teacher.
LIFE AS A TEACHER
Nickolaos moved from Patara to the city of Myra, very near the modern-day Turkish city of Demre. There he led a group of people who wanted to learn Hebrew teachings, which included the suggestions of Yeshua.
Nickolaos was an excellent teacher and this attracted the attention of the Romans. This was not good! Fortunately, just as this was occurring, Emperor Constantine had his famous “vision of the cross” (see Christian History). This vision, Constantine believed, enabled him to regain control of the entire Roman Empire in 312 AD!
This was fortunate for Nickolaos. Only 12 years later, Constantine suddenly put out a decree that, in honor of his victory, there would soon be a meeting in the city of Nicea. At this meeting, Constantine would reveal a new religion for the Roman Empire.
It was to be called Christianity, a Greek word. Its hero was to be Yeshua, or Jesus in Latin. It would be a one-God religion, like the Hebrew one, but better, he said.
Nickolaos was quite familiar with the teachings of Yeshua. So he wrote to Constantine and asked if he could attend the meeting. Amazingly, he was accepted! Soon he began the long journey to Nicea by boat and donkey. The journey took almost two weeks. (It would be a two-hour flight today.)
THE MEETING AT NICEA IN 325 AD
The so-called Council Of Nicea was one of the most important meetings in the history of the earth. The outcome of this important meeting was the formation of the Roman Catholic Church.
History books are very clear about this. Only this meeting explains things like Easter eggs, Christmas trees, teachings about Mother Mary, and much more about the Christian religion.
When the meeting began, Nickolaos was surprised to find very few religious followers of Yeshua in attendance. Instead, the meeting was mainly Roman guards and a few Roman government officials.
Constantine was quite old, by now. However, he often ran the sessions himself and dictated what would be the doctrines, holidays, rituals, dress codes, prayers, and order of the service that they called the ‘mass’ that would make up the new religion.
They also decided which scrolls and letters would be included in the new “gospels”, as they called them. Many excellent documents were excluded because they didn’t quite support the Roman point of view.
Most of the meeting had been prepared in advance. There was little discussion or debate about it.
Nickolaos expected this style, which was the “Roman way”. However, he was shocked because some of the doctrines were not at all what Yeshua had taught.
Yeshua had not sought to form a new religion. He wanted to restore the Hebrew religion to its former greatness.
Also, Yeshua had not wanted his name to be so important. However, Constantine insisted there was a need for a “savior” or “God”. Yeshua, who performed miracles, was perfect for this role.
Preserving the true teachings. The sessions went on for several weeks, during which time Nickolaos tried to get the group to include the real teachings of Yeshua. In this effort, he was usually alone and always outvoted.
When the meeting ended, Nickolaos was quite depressed. Teachings had been changed and he knew Yeshua would not have liked it.
Yet he was happy that soon the entire Roman Empire would embrace a one-God religion that was, in fact, based on the Hebrew Bible. This had been a prophesy of Yeshua that Nickolaos found most difficult to believe.
After the meeting, Constantine stopped Nickolaos in the hallway and looked at him seriously. He said, “You are now a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. Be sure you tell everyone back home, and be sure you live up to your obligations as a bishop”.
Then he told Nicholaos to put on beautiful reddish robes filled with crosses. Professional artists were called in and Nickolaos had to stand for hours for a portrait that today is famous. (This portrait is on the internet on several websites). Only afterwards was Nickolaos released to go home.
PART II. THE WORK OF NICKOLAOS
This section explains what Nickolaos taught the people of Myra. This is not well known, except by some Catholic scholars who have read the books by Nickolaos.
He gathered the teachings from his study of the Hebrew Bible, from the teachings of Yeshua, and from his own life experiences. They were quite similar to that which this website teaches. Up to 200 people attended the sessions:
1. Morality, such as the Seven Laws for the children of Noah and the Ten Commandments of Moses.
2. The kosher laws, which are about food and diet. In addition to those in the Torah, he added some rules of eating. He said they were originally there, but were removed. The article entitled The Kosher Laws discusses these rules of eating.
3. A few other Hebrew teachings about cleanliness, marriage, inheritance and other important topics.
4. Health care and disease prevention and correction using food and simple remedies and procedures. I am told he included the spinal twists, for example, wearing light-colored clothing, and other things that we teach today.
5. The Pulling Down Exercise. I am told that he taught the exact same mental exercise as we teach on this website. He learned it from his uncle.
6. Other aspects of what we call Development such as the importance of rest and sleep, holding on to one’s sexual fluid, and emotional detachment.
Religious services. Nickolaos also offered religious services every Sabbath. Usually there was a service at sundown on Friday, and another on Saturday morning.
The services usually began with a talk by Nickolaos. It lasted an hour or a little more. He picked a topic from the list above and usually answered questions for the second half of the hour.
Following the talk, he and his staff of about 10 people served everyone good quality food. This was important because many of the people were poor. They did not have access to quality food and this was their best meal of the week.
Following the meal, everyone sat and did the pulling down mental exercise together - identical to the one taught on this website, according to what I have read.
Following the exercise, which took about half an hour, there was more discussion for those who wished to stay longer.
Saint Nickolaos’s original church in Myra, Turkey has recently being renovated and hosts many pilgrams and tourists each year.
In addition to the free meals each Sabbath, his meeting place also offered a clean bed to stay in for the homeless, or for anyone who needed a bed for the night. These were common activities of churches and monasteries of that time.
THE ORIGINAL TEACHINGS OF YESHUA
1. Ritual. According to Saint Nickolaos, Yeshua did not stress ritual at all. Yeshua was very upset with the Jewish priests and their rituals, which were never part of the original teachings of Moses.
Yeshua wanted the people to live simply, healthfully, and with love. Church rituals had no place in this. They mostly just confuse people, brainwash people, dull their minds and waste valuable time.
2. The church hierarchy. Yeshua did not believe in powerful priests and bishops. He wanted the church leaders to be of the people and for the people. He opposed the religious hierarchy that had developed within the Hebrew religion, which again was never a part of the teachings of Moses.
3. Love. Yeshua stressed love in all things, such as helping the poor and spreading the idea that God loves us, God forgives us, and God’s grace has spread over the face of the earth.
4. Health. Yeshua taught people how to live healthfully. This has been omitted almost completely from the New Testament of the Bible, sadly. This is very much needed today, when people overeat, do not sleep enough, and indulge in many other harmful habits.
5. Grace and mercy. Yeshua taught that God is love, and God gives grace to all, regardless of one’s age, health, position in society or anything else.
God is also a God of mercy. One does not need to pray for mercy, as the Catholic church now teaches. The mercy is there for you.
6. Forgiveness. God forgives everyone for everything. This is the ironclad spiritual law. You are forgiven for anything you have done or failed to do. Just live well from now on.
7. Love yourself. It is not right to teach people to love others, but not to love themselves. We must therefore include ourselves in the circle of our love. In other words, we must always love ourselves, no matter what.
8. Heal others. Yeshua taught that we can and must go out among the people and heal them. This is not only to produce a healthier world. It is also for our own salvation, which somehow is connected to the salvation and healing of others.
9. Thoughts are powerful. Jesus taught that our thoughts are powerful. We need to watch our thoughts, at all times. Like a garden, we need to cultivate happy, uplifting thoughts and uproot and remove the rest.
10. Take responsibility. We are to take full responsibility for our lives, no matter how confused or confusing this may seem. Blaming others for our plight is not wise, no matter how things look.
11. Each is an extension of God. Each of us is the extension of God’s love into this world of form. We are never condemned, and we need never pray for things or for money. We do need to pray to recall the truth that we are an extension of the Love of God into this physical world.
12. Thy will be done. Yeshua offered but one prayer for all to pray. We are to ask for God’s will in all that we are and all that we do.
Today, the Catholic Church does not even say that prayer during their services! Yet the Lord’s Prayer is the most important prayer one can pray.
13. Judge not. Be careful about judging the lives of other people. It is much better to develop ourselves. This does not mean not to discern in the light. At all times, we must discern the truth and act accordingly.
14. Celebrate life. Yeshua taught that life is a great gift, and we are to celebrate that gift often. God is with us. We are always in His heart. Therefore, celebrate, rejoice, be not anxious, and be not sad.
The Christian religion is thriving in some areas, but is losing members because it does not teach enough of the truth of Yeshua, Nickolaos would say. It needs to revert to the original teachings, some of which other Christian sects teach, but not enough, he would say.
Many miracles were attributed to Nickolaos. This is why he was made a saint in the Catholic Church.
Healing the sick. Among the miracles was an ability to heal the sick of many ailments using mainly healthful nutrition. He also used his knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and the power of prayer, at which he excelled.
Junk food, such as refined sugar and white flour, did not exist in his day. However, people often ate spoiled food or just did not eat much, at all, due to poverty or bad teeth. And, like today, people did not eat enough cooked vegetables. Most people lived mainly on meat and grain.
Feeding the multitudes. He was also able to feed the people of his city during a famine with grain that miraculously did not consume the grain. This brought him a lot of attention.
Nickolaos’s fame and admiration spread widely in Europe in the hundred years after his passing. At that time, the Catholic Church had no formal procedure for declaring a person a saint. So his sainthood was informal, but very definite. One could say it was by popular demand.
The patron saint. Because he loved children, he became the patron saint of children. His intellectual acuity earned him the patron sainthood of all students. He is also the patron saint of sailors, thanks to another miracle he performed with a ship on the Mediterranean Sea.
He was of Greek descent, and today he is the patron saint of the entire nation of Greece, as well as that of all the nations of the “low countries” - the Netherlands, Belgium, Lichtenstein, and the surrounding areas.
Of all the nations, Albania today venerates St. Nickolaos the most. The Eastern Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches celebrate a feast of St. Nickolaos on December 6, the day of his passing.
Many churches and alters have been built in Europe to honor him. Many around the world pray and ask for guidance from him. Several songs, hymns and operettas have also been composed about him and are still popular in Europe.
Nickolaos passed from the earth at the age of 73 on December 6, 343 A.D. and was buried in his home city. Later, his remains were moved to Bari, Italy, because of danger to the grave from invading Muslim forces.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SANTA CLAUS?
Teach your children that the legend of Santa Claus is based on the true story of a great man. Nickolaos of Myra lived, and was a wise, kind, generous, and understanding soul. He is an inspiration to us all.
The truth of St. Nick has been badly distorted - with the red jump suit, flying reindeer, fat belly, and ho-ho-ho laugh. Underneath it all, however, is a beautiful story. So teach your children well the truth about Santa.
Excellent references for everything in this article, and more, are found on a number of websites. The following are from www.stnicholascenter.org and from www.wikipedia.com.
1. Willis Jones, The Santa Claus Book, Walker Publishing Company, 1976, p. 123, which includes a letter from the director of the Office for Divine Worship of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
2. Wire Services—United Press International The Canonization of Saints
3. Catholic Apologetics The Commemoration of Saints and Heroes of the Christian Church in the Anglican Communion.
5. Canonization The Orthodox Church in America.
5. Canonization of Saints Religion Facts
12. Cunningham, Lawrence (2005). A brief history of saints. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-4051-1402-8. “The fourth-century Saint Nikolaos of Myra, Greek Anatolia (in present-day Turkey) spread to Europe through the port city of Bari in southern Italy… Devotion to the saint in the Low countries became blended with Nordic folktales, transforming this early Greek bishop into that Christmas icon, Santa Claus’.”
16. Domenico, Roy Palmer (2002). The regions of Italy: a reference guide to history and culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 21. ISBN 0-313-30733-4. “Saint Nicholas (Bishop of Myra) replaced Sabino as the patron saint of the city… A Greek from what is now Turkey, he lived in the early fourth century.”
17. Burman, Edward (1991). Emperor to emperor: Italy before the Renaissance. Constable. p. 126. ISBN 0-09-469490-7. “For although he is the patron saint of Russia, and the model for a northern invention such as Santa Claus, Nicholas of Myra was a Greek.”
18. Ingram, W. Scott; Ingram, Asher, Scott; Robert (2004). Greek Immigrants. Infobase Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 9780816056897. “The original Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, was a Greek born in Asia Minor (now modern Turkey) in the fourth century. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life to Christianity.”
19. Lanzi, Gioia (2004). Saints and their symbols: recognizing saints in art and in popular images. Liturgical Press. p. 111. ISBN 0-8146-2970-9. “Nicholas was born around 270 AD in Patara on the coast of what is now western Turkey.”
20. Collins, Ace (2009). Stories Behind Men of Faith. Zondervan. p. 121. ISBN 9780310564560. “Nicholas was born in the Greek city of Patara around 270 AD. The son of a businessman named Theophanes and his wife, Nonna, the child’s earliest years were spent in Myra… As a port on the Mediterranean Sea, in the middle of the sea lanes that linked Egypt, Greece and Rome, Myra was a destination for traders, fishermen, and merchant sailors. Spawned by the spirit of both the city’s Greek heritage and the ruling Roman government, cultural endeavors such as art, drama, and music were mainstays of everyday life.”
21. Faber, Paul (2006). Sinterklaas overseas: the adventures of a globetrotting saint. KIT Publishers. p. 7. ISBN 9789068324372. “The historical figure that served as model for the Dutch Sinterklaas was born around 270 AD in the port of Patara in the Greek province of Lycia in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). His Greek name Nikolaos means something along the lines of “victor of the people”.”
35. Carus, Louise (1 October 2002). The Real St. Nicholas. Quest Books. p. 2. ISBN 9780835608138. “In Myra, the traditional St. Nicholas Feast Day is still celebrated on December 6, which many believe to be the anniversary of St. Nicholas's death. This day is honored throughout Western Christendom, in lands comprising both Catholic and Protestant communities (in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Saint's feast date is December 19). On December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day, some American boys and girls put their shoes outside their bedroom door and leave a small gift in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there.”