From The way Back Machine: Wednes­day, 12 Decem­ber 2007
A. Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on Decem­ber 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.
b. Nicholas was among the most senior bish­ops who con­vened the Coun­cil of Nicaea in 325 CE and cre­ated the New Tes­ta­ment. The text they pro­duced por­trayed Jews as “the chil­dren of the devil”[11] who sen­tenced Jesus to death.

c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idol­ized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanc­tu­ary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas sup­planted a female boon-​giving deity called The Grand­mother, or Pasqua Epipha­nia, who used to fill the children’s stock­ings with her gifts. The Grand­mother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the cen­ter of the Nicholas cult. Mem­bers of this group gave each other gifts dur­ing a pageant they con­ducted annu­ally on the anniver­sary of Nicholas’ death, Decem­ber 6.

d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by Ger­man and Celtic pagans. These groups wor­shipped a pan­theon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heav­ens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediter­ranean appear­ance, grew a beard, mounted a fly­ing horse, resched­uled his flight for Decem­ber, and donned heavy win­ter cloth­ing.

e. In a bid for pagan adher­ents in North­ern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) dis­trib­ute gifts on Decem­ber 25th instead of Decem­ber 6th.

f. In 1809, the nov­el­ist Wash­ing­ton Irv­ing (most famous his The Leg­end of Sleepy Hol­low and Rip Van Win­kle) wrote a satire of Dutch cul­ture enti­tled Knicker­bocker His­tory. The satire refers sev­eral times to the white bearded, flying-​horse rid­ing Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.

g. Dr. Clement Moore, a pro­fes­sor at Union Sem­i­nary, read Knicker­bocker His­tory, and in 1822 he pub­lished a poem based on the char­ac­ter Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christ­mas, when all through the house, not a crea­ture was stir­ring, not even a mouse. The stock­ings were hung by the chim­ney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore inno­vated by por­tray­ing a Santa with eight rein­deer who descended through chimneys.

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