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The most popular St. Nicholas legend tells of a very poor man who was the father of three young women. He did not have money to give them for dowries so they were unable to marry. Women who could not marry often turned to a life of sin to earn a living. One night, St. Nicholas came by their house and secretly left gifts for the girls so they could properly marry. Some accounts tell of him throwing the gifts through the window where they landed in the stockings hanging by the fire to dry. From this came the tradition of giving secret gifts on the eve of St Nicholas (December 6).

The centuries following would find Nicholas becoming the patron saint of merchants, sailors, bakers, travelers and children, as well as of countries such as Greece and Russia. Being the patron saint of sailors and travelers explains how his stories spread around the world. In paintings and sculptures, Nicholas was portrayed as an orthodox priest, with priestly cap and a short, brown beard.

Over the centuries, St. Nicholas’ characteristics became melded with pagan winter superstitions. The Viking god Odin added a great many of his traits to what became Santa Claus. The Vikings believed Odin “in the guise of his December character came to earth dressed in a hooded cloak, to sit and listen to his people and see if they [were] contented or not. It was said that he carried a satchel full of bounty which he distributed to the needy or worthy. He was portrayed as a Sage with long white beard and hair.”9 Nicholas

 

was also melded with Father Frost, who rode in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Distortions continue to this day, with the story of St. Nicholas being almost fully corrupted. The modern day Santa Claus is a fat, jolly old man (some accounts read “elf”) with a long white beard and red suit who drives a sleigh pulled by reindeer around the world giving gifts to all good children. These practices have absolutely no significance to the worship of Jesus or His birth.

III. EPIPHANY

This holiday celebrates the revelation of Jesus to the wise men. This is an early sign that the message of salvation would not be for the Jews only but also for the Gentiles. Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th, the twelfth day after Christmas.

IV. PRE-LENTEN SEASON

“The period between Epiphany and Lent, which contains three Sundays known simply by Latin numbers; namely, Septuagesima (70), Sexagesima (60), and Quinquagesima (50), each of which is designated according to the approximate number of days by which it precedes Easter. The number indicated, in each case, is derived, not exactly, but according to the decade of days in which the Sunday falls. Quadragesima (40) is the name of the first Sunday which falls within the forty-day Lenten period.”10

 
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