Saint Nicholas: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

By | November 28, 2019

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Christmas party 1820 with St. Nicholas. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

"Saint Nicholas" is just one of the many names by which we call the jolly old elf who (allegedly) brings us presents every Christmas, but while the existence of Santa Claus remains up for debate, we know that Saint Nicholas was a real person. Over the years, the real-life story of this Christian saint merged with folklore from Scandinavia to form the basis of our modern-day Santa Claus myths, but there are still a few differences. Let's take a closer look at the real life of Saint Nicholas to see how the roots of the Santa stories began. 

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Saint Nicholas was a Greek living in Turkey. (

A Turkish Bishop

The real Saint Nicholas was a third-century bishop from Greece who served in the region that is now Turkey. He headed up a large congregation of faithful Christians and even served on the Council of Nicaea to debate biblical theories. According to legend, Saint Nicholas was a bit of a hothead in his youth, even resorting to violence on occasion. One story holds that he once took off his sandal and slapped a heretic across the face with it during an argument. While it is difficult to prove these claims, we do know that when the bones of Saint Nicholas were unearthed, his nose showed signs that it had been broken before.