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St. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints of the Christian Church. He is the patron saint of sailors, travelers, bakers, merchants and especially children. Little is known about his life, except that he was a Bishop of Myra in Lycia, on the coast of Asia-Minor. It is believed that he was born in Patara in Lycia. Some stories were told that he made a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine, that he was imprisoned during the Diocletian's persecution and released under Constantine. Many miracles were accredited to him. Much of Europe still observes Dec. 6, the date of St. Nicholas' death as a special holiday. In time he became the patron saint of children. On the night before the 6th of Dec. children put their shoes in front of their bedroom door, hoping that St. Nick will leave them some candy. In the morning when they get up, they rush to see what St. Nick has left them. If the children have been nice, they will get candy, naughty children may only get switches. 'With which their parents can spank them.' St. Nicholas always has a helper. In Germany it is Knecht Ruprecht. All the children love St. Nicholas, but they are sometimes afraid of his helper. His helper keeps track of the children who were good and those who were bad. It could be if they were really bad last year, Knecht Ruprecht would carry them away in the helpers bag until they learnt to be good. After Knecht Ruprecht helped St. Nicholas on Dec. 5-6 he will then help the Christkind on Christmas Eve to bring the presents. Dutch settlers in America continue to celebrate the day. Their name for Saint Nicholas was Sinterklass. This became known as Santa Claus.

Katharina Hines

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