What St. Nicholas Teaches Us About Generosity

We’ve all heard of “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas”, but how much do you know about the man behind the legend?

Fr. James Kubicki SJ, regular contributor to Relevant Radio®, fondly remembers putting out his stocking on the eve of December 5, hoping that when he awoke he would find some treats from Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas

“St. Nicholas was a 4th-century bishop in what is Asia Minor, of what we now call Turkey. And he was present at the Council of Nicaea where we get the Nicene Creed that we recite every Sunday. He was an important figure in the early Church and hammering out the doctrines that we hold fast to today,” explained Fr. Kubicki.

But how did a bishop become associated with Christmas and gift-giving? It comes from a legend that when St. Nicholas heard of a very poor man who had no money as a dowry for his three daughters, the bishop tossed a bag of coins through a window of their home in the middle of the night. This legend is how he has come to be known as a very charitable, generous man who gave gifts to others.

When we fill our stockings (or shoes, as the tradition goes in some parts of the world) with candy, we are honoring the feast of St. Nicholas by carrying on his legacy of generosity. In fact, some Catholic parents follow the tradition of giving foil-wrapped chocolate coins to their children on this day.

St. Nicholas is a reminder of what our Christmas gift giving should really be about, says Fr. Kubicki. “The bag of gold symbolized by a stocking filled with candy is a reminder this day of his great concern for those who were not as fortunate as he was. But also, it’s a reminder for us as we approach the gift-giving season of Christmas that it’s not about competing and not about getting, but it’s about the tradition of giving and making one another happy through the gifts we give.”

St. Nicholas, pray for us!

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.