The Story of St. Nicholas
The story starts with socks. Until very recent times, most people did not have the luxury of having multiple sets of clothes. A single set of pants, socks, shoes, cap, shirt, etc was not uncommon, although some folks had an extra set. The poor washed and dried their single pair of socks or stockings frequently, typically drying them over night by the fire.
According to legend, a generous 3rd century priest named Nicholas was known for his anonymous gifts to the poor. Nicholas was born in what is now Turkey. His parents, who were wealthy, died when he was young. Nicholas went into the priesthood and followed Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give to the poor.” Nicholas used his entire inheritance to aid the poor and the suffering. One particular gift was a gold piece placed into the hanging stocking of a peasant girl who was the daughter of a poor widower. The girl used the gold as her dowry and escaped the poverty in which she had been raised. When it came time for each of the poor widower’s two other daughters to marry, a gold coin miraculously appeared in their stockings by the mantle as well. People noted that these and other gifts to the poor appeared when priest Nicholas was in their village.
Priest Nicholas eventually became a bishop and attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, where the Nicene Creed was developed. Nicholas ultimately became a saint, and his birthday, December 6, became a time of giving gifts to children.