Notable feasts during Advent: Feast of St. Nicholas recognizes real-life Santa

Wolfgang Georg Kimmig-Liebe of Germany is dressed as St. Nicholas as he stands among the crowd before Pope Francis arrives for his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 2, in this 2015 file photo. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The feast of St. Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus, celebrates a fourth-century saint who was a Greek bishop in Myra. His uncle, also a bishop, raised him after his parents died early on during an epidemic.

He long had a spirit of giving in him, and by adulthood, a preserved story talks about St. Nicholas tossing a bag of gold coins through a poor man’s window to use as dowries for his daughters to get married. The act saved the women from being sold into slavery.

A European tradition ultimately developed encouraging children to leave their shoes out overnight so St Nicholas could fill them with special fruits, candies and other small treats. Even St. Thérèse of Lisieux had fond memories of the tradition. It lives on at some area Catholic schools and homes.

Another way to celebrate is by blessing candy canes on his feast day. Catholic Company even links to a step-by-step guide on shaping the candy into a bishop’s crozier.