In a safely determined pre-Christmas shopping/errand jaunt梬hich we intentionally chose far in advance, to avoid the manic and the panic of people pushing and knocking us over with handbags and Christmas wrap tubes梞y friend and I drove from destination to destination with pending anxiety.
We were sure at any minute the shockingly sparse highway would morph into the real December nightmare and cars would be honking and sleet would be slamming, and people would be fingering and gesturing and scowling.
At some point in our speculating why an even non-Christmas wee route would normally be packed with drivers, we started talking about who Santa Claus is厀here he came from, how convenient that he appeared at the same time as the Christ-child抯 birth celebrations (though Christ is really not a December baby, more like February or March, and the Greenwich time changes have seen to that erroneous dating).
It抯 odd how much trivia we know, but then cannot recall it when we need to. So I did a little searching, to remind us of the origins of the patron saint of Christmas卭r whoever he first was, other than one who secretly left goodies in wooden shoes?
All western cultures know of Saint Nicholas (and hence the reason I could not recall great details) is that he was a beneficent man who left gifts in secret for the people of 4th-century Byzantine Lycia (Turkey). His name was Nicholas of Myra, a clergyman of Lycia (a bishop). But as he was a saint (patron to merchants, seamen, archers, children, students, prostitutes, pharmacists, lawyers, pawnbrokers and prisoners [according to a wikipedia contributor], his name became known as Saint Nicholas, then St. Nick, as well as the name that translated, centuries later, to Nickolaus in Germany; Sinterclaas in Flanders/the Netherlands; and, finally, Santa Claus in the western worlds.
But the St. Nicholas of Lycia is not to be confused with Saint Nicholas of Sion, nor should he be feared (beyond his power, with his list, to define good and bad boys and girls) for his associations with Knecht Ruprecht, the fabled accompanier of St. Nick in Germany, who would eat bad children.
Nor should Saint Nicholas--or Santa Claus--be forgotten as a saint梩hough his original eve was celebrated in early December, Martin Luther replaced the events with those associated with Christ-child respects on Christmas eve, in favor of a Catholic mindset卪uch to the chagrin of the Protestants, who were (and still often are) honoring their revered saint Nicholas.
No wonder my friend and I were confused. Once again, we are left to our own religions, devices, and choices, left to honor whomever we honor on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or any other sacred time of the year.