Given his decision making power on the gift issue, my girls made sure Santa Claus got some seriously good cookies most Christmas eves. Like most daughters, mine didn’t know much about the real Saint Nick. But girls everywhere would benefit from a broader knowledge of the historical benefactor.
I picked up somewhere in school that Santa Claus was one alias for a real guy named Saint Nicholas who lived a long time ago. Recently, in a fit of curiosity, I dug up some information that gave me a whole new look at the jolly St. Nick.
I learned that Saint Nicholas lived early in the 4th century in what is now Turkey. He was orphaned early but left with substantial means by his parents. He used this inheritance to benefit others, especially children. He became the Bishop of Myra in Turkey and played an important leadership role in the church. Called the Wonderworker, he was well known for his generosity to children, hence his association with the legend of Santa Claus. The story of a benevolent soul giving gifts to children is a part of many cultures with many names. St. Nick as a name for Santa Claus persists to this day.
By now, if you are a frequent reader of my columns, you may be wondering how I am going to work sex into this story. Here goes: I read in my study of Saint Nicholas that he is a patron saint of virgins. A patron saint is one that prays to God on behalf of the petitioner. So if one wants to remain chaste, one may pray to Saint Nicholas who will then lift up the petitioner in spiritual prayer. But there is more to this story.
Legend has it that Saint Nicholas became aware of a desperately poor parishioner having three daughters with no dowry to recommend them for marriage. The father had planned to sell them into prostitution to provide some means of support. Secretly by night, Nicholas brought bags of gold on three separate occasions to the man’s home thus allowing the three daughters to have sufficient means to avoid whoredom and strike a marriage covenant. On the third visit to deliver the gift, Nicholas was caught in the act of generosity by the man.
Many make the Santa Claus-like association of this story to Saint Nicholas the gift giver. I see another angle. For reasons that often involve money, women today have few protectors, few St. Nicks. Bob Dylan sang it truly two decades ago that today’s culture seems to promote “old men turning young daughters into whores.” A look at any magazine rack will tell you that there is a market for flesh and the demographic is predominantly male, ages 13 to 90. Feminism has been no help here. Girls gone wild with sexual freedom most often leads to the exploitation by men. Women today are of course not as helpless as those three girls saved by Saint Nicholas but I doubt we’d see as much skin if there were no gawking male purchasers, eager to buy and sell the images as commerce.
We need Saint Nicholas today. We need the gift of chastity and modesty. We need more protectors of young women and fewer of those who would sell them into the brothel of commercialism.
We need you today Saint Nicholas, the wonderworker. Our daughters need the good gifts of those who truly value women as intrinsically golden.