St. Nicholas, between gifts and rods


Now, it sounds funny to me. Very funny! But at the age when I thought the candy came straight from the store, it was not funny at all. Every time, in the Santa Nicholas’ Eve, in addition to the carefully placed gifts in a boot, I received, in the other boot, a rod, a carrot or onion (These last two items were part of my father’s personal touch!). This thing repeated so rigorously, year after year, that I came to believe that I had two boots, precisely because, in one, Santa Nicholas had to place his rods.

Therefore, I decided to unravel mysteries such as: “Why does Santa Nicholas come with gifts? And if he is such a positive character, why does he bring up the rods?” So, after many years and an impressive collection of rods of all shapes and sizes, I managed to get the answers I was looking for. Here’s what I found out!

St. Nicholas is, in fact, a mythological figure inspired by the great personality of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Mira (Myra) in the Lichia Province (from today’s Turkey) in the first part of the fourth century. This saint was known in the Christian tradition, first of all, because of his generosity.

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It is said that, when he was a bishop of Mira, one evening, as he strolled through the city, the saint would have heard through the open window of a house a father who had three daughters and had no money to support his family. Therefore, he was planning to force the elder daughter to become a prostitute. To prevent this, on the second evening, Saint Nicholas threw a money bag in the yard of that family. When the father found that small fortune, he used it to marry the elder daughter and gave her the money as dowry.

The same happened to the second daughter. After that, the father of the girls wanted to know who the mysterious benefactor was and lurked out the window. When St. Nicholas threw the third money bag, the father ran after him and thanked him. Normally, despite the saint’s wish that his deed should not be publicly known, this wasn’t the case, and his example was followed by other Christians. They cast various gifts in the yards of the needy during the night. And so, a beautiful Christian tradition has emerged that has been preserved until today.

Okay, well, that explains why gifts are given in the boots during the night from December 5 to December 6. But that does not clarify in any way the mystery of the rods that children receive as a reward for their “goodness” over the year.

The answer is given to us, also, by all the Christian tradition that speaks of St. Nicholas as a very fiery defender of the true faith. On the occasion of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325, the teaching of faith concerning the Person of the Savior Jesus Christ was clarified, and the Arian heresy was repelled. During the debates, Saint Nicholas, angry with the naughty behavior of the heretic Arius, would have given him a slap.

Since such behavior is not worthy of a Christian, much less of a bishop, the other parents who took part in the sessions of the synod decided to depose St. Nicholas from the bishop’s rank. But during the night, many of the participants in the synod had a vision in which Christ and His mother, Virgin Mary, praised the saint’s deed and gave him back the Gospel and homophore as a sign of restoring the episcopal dignity. Based on this happening, it was concluded that Santa Nicholas can also bring other “gifts” in the form of rods, which can be used to straighten the least conformist ones.

So the fact that Saint Nicholas saved the father’s daughters from a decadent life has remained a model of Christian life that must be copied by each of us whenever we have the opportunity to do so. In the end, imitation of a saint’s way of life truly means honoring him.

Also, the fact that, in addition to gifts, rods have found their way through history to the present day, it tells us that we need to be careful about our attitude and correct it as often as possible. After all, we cannot always be right. So, it is good not to give anyone the opportunity to copy the other pattern of St. Nicholas’ behavior.

As you realize, such a response cannot compensate for all the anxieties caused by the childhood rods. But it does not matter anymore! Over them a layer of forgetfulness was laid like snowflakes enveloped with their white cloak the frozen ground of winter. But the joy of every morning of December 6th remains! And it made me realize that Santa Nicholas is not just for children, he comes for everyone. As long as we exist, we still have hidden, somewhere in our souls, glimpses of the joy of the past. And these sparks are too valuable not to be turn into fires!

So, go quickly and polish your boots! And if you know that Santa Nicholas cannot reach everyone, give him a hand and try to act on his behalf. At least this time! I have a feeling that Santa will not be upset and even reward you.

P.S .: Let Santa bring the rods, and if you cannot avoid such a mission, you can plant them and hang a label with the message “From Santa Nicholas”. Over the years, they will become fully-grown trees and the impact will be even stronger.

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