Statue of Saint Nicholas of Myra, at Saint Nicholas Church, in Pocahontas, Illinois. Photo taken in April.
Born on the Ides of March, ca. 270-276, and died on December 6th 343, Saint Nicholas was born in Asia Minor of wealthy parents; when they died, he was taken under the care of his uncle, who was bishop of Myrna, and who raised him as a cleric in the Church. During his life he gained a great reputation as a great holy man and generous donor to those in need, and after his death a great intercessor: so much so that he is now referred to as Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.
An examination of his relics — which are now found in Bari, Italy — determined that Nicholas was five feet tall and had a broken nose. His relics exude a liquid, called the Manna of Saint Nicholas, which is collected on this day.
Although this Saint is the original source for Santa Claus, the modern-day secularized figure is no match to his prototype. More information can be found here.
The patronage of Saint Nicholas is vast, and includes children, students, sailors, brides and grooms, longshoremen, fishermen, pharmacists, prisoners, repentant prostitutes, murderers, and thieves, pawnbrokers, the poor, spinsters, and Greece and Russia. His iconography often shows him with three golden balls or bags of gold.