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The true story of Santa Claus
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was madeBishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals – murderers, thieves and robbers. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th.
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value – a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint.
Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him. Nicholas’ tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage.
Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.
Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves. In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Hungarian children clean their shoes or boots and put them on the windowsill and wait for Santa Claus to fill them with sweets and presents. But if they haven’t behaved themselves and they are on the naughty list they might not get sweets only thin twigs painted gold and called “virgács”.
Here is a short summary of the story. Can you fill in the gaps in the text?
Nicholas was a (1)…….. man from the village of Patara. He came from a devout (2)………. family. His parents died early. Nicholas used his whole (3)…………… to help the (4) ………, the sick, and the suffering. He was the (5)………. of Myra. He was (6) ………….. and (7) ………….. for his faith. He provided (8) …………. for a poor man’s three daughters with bags of (9) ……… tossed through an open window. That’s where the legend of (10) ……………. originates from. Sailors claim St. Nicholas as (11) ……… . . He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra. The (12)………….. of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th. December 6th is still the main day for (13)…………. and (14)…………….. in much of Europe. Hungarian children put their clean shoes or boots on the (15) ………. and wait for Santa to fill them with sweets and presents.
Key: 1. Greek, 2. Christian, 3. inheritance, 4. needy, 5. bishop, 6. persecuted, 7. exiled, 8. dowry, 9. gold, 10. Santa Claus, 11. patron, 12. anniversary, 13. gift giving, 14. merrymaking, 15. windowsill
wealthy – gazdag
devout – odaszánt, buzgó
Christian – keresztény
epidemic – járvány
inheritance – örökség
needy – szükségben lévők
bishop – püspök
generosity – nagylelkűség
ruthlessly – kíméletlenül, kegyetlenül
to persecute – üldözni
to exile – száműzni
deacon – diakónus
murderer – gyilkos
thief – tolvaj
robber – rabló
deed – cselekedet
to revere – nagyra becsül, tisztel
dowry – hozomány
slavery – rabszolgaság
to toss – dobni
famine – éhínség
to spare lives – életeket menteni
innocently – ártatlanul
to accuse – megvádolni, gyanúsítani
in return – cserében
patron – védőszent
protection – védelem
pilgrimage – zarándoklat
compassionate – könyörületes
to beg – koldulni
alms – alamizsna
steamship – gőzhajó
initial letter – kezdőbetű
hay – széna
windowsill – ablakpárkány
naughty – rossz, csintalan, pajkos
twig – gally