Saint Nicholas, The Christmas Saint

Saint Nicholas leaves money in the stockings of the poor maidens.
The Life & Miracles of Saint Nicholas Artist: Alexander Boguslawski

Santa Claus? Father Christmas? Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid look at the stories about Saint Nicholas. Who was this man and why do we remember him?

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Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Bruce Gulland.

Voice 2  

And I'm Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3  

It was the night before Christmas,
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.

Voice 1  

That is the beginning of a famous Christmas poem. It is called A Visit from Saint Nicholas, by Clement C. Moore. The poem describes a house on the night before Christmas. Nothing is moving, not even a small brown mouse. The family has hung stockings by the fire. Usually, they wear these stockings on their feet. But tonight, they hope that Saint Nicholas will come and fill their stockings with sweet treats and gifts. The poem continues, and tells a story about a father who sees Saint Nicholas bring these gifts to his house during the night.

Voice 2  

Many countries around the world have stories about Saint Nicholas. The stories are based on a real man called Saint Nicholas. Over time the details of the stories change. They are no longer real stories from history. But the stories explain different Christmas traditions. Today's Spotlight is on the many Christmas stories about Saint Nicholas.

Voice 1  

The real Saint Nicholas was born during the third century in a village near Myra, which is now in Turkey. His parents were very devoted followers of Jesus. And they raised their son to be a follower of Jesus too. When Nicholas was young, his parents died from disease. But he remembered the values his parents taught him.

Voice 2  

As an adult, Nicholas remembered one particular teaching from the Christian Bible. It was to care for poor and sick people. In the Christian Bible, Jesus tells his followers to sell their things and give to the poor. Nicholas could not forget these words. He gave away lots of his money to the poor. And he helped people who were sick or suffering. There are many stories about his secret giving. It is not clear if these stories are true. But they show how much he cared for poor people. Nick Page tells one version of one of the most famous stories.

Voice 4  

"A father had three daughters. At that time, there was a custom for marriage – a dowry. The father offered a gift to the man who wanted to marry his daughter. Without this gift, it was not likely for a woman to find a husband. But the father was very poor. He did not have enough money for this custom. So he planned to sell one of his daughters. He thought if he did this he would be able to care for his other daughters.

Nicholas heard about the father’s problem. He went to the father’s house the night before the daughter was going to be sold. The daughter had washed her stockings and hung them by the fire to dry. Nicholas threw a small bag of gold into one of the stockings. Then he left. In the morning, the man discovered the gold. Now he did not need to sell his daughter. Instead he was able to find a husband for his daughter. In a year, it was time for his next daughter to be married. But the man was still poor. Once again, Nicholas came during the night. And again, he threw a bag of gold into a stocking.

Finally, when it was time for his third daughter to marry, the man waited. He wanted to know who was giving the gifts. For a final time, a bag of gold came through his window. This time, the man was ready. He ran out of the house and the person he saw was Nicholas. But Nicholas demanded that the man keep this knowledge a secret."

Voice 1  

Over time, Nicholas became well-known for his kind, generous giving. People also knew that he was a follower of Jesus. He even became a bishop — a religious leader — of the city of Myra. As a bishop, Nicholas continued to serve poor, sick, and suffering people. Years after he died, people wanted to honor him for devoting his life to God and caring for people. So they named him a saint.

Voice 2  

Many countries have created stories about Saint Nicholas as a secret gift-giver. Often the stories are for children. Saint Nicholas considers how children have behaved all year. Then, he gives them good gifts for good behaviour and bad gifts for bad behaviour. These stories explain Christmas traditions. For example, in many European countries, children leave their shoes out for Saint Nicholas. They hope he will fill their shoes with treats.

Voice 1  

There are also other stories about Saint Nicholas. In Greece, he is not a secret gift-giver. Instead, he is the saint who protects sailors. It is said that in bad weather, sailors would pray to Saint Nicholas. Then he would appear to them like a dream. He would guide them to safety and could make the storms go away.

Voice 2  

It is not clear exactly when Saint Nicholas died. But many people believe that he died in the year 343 A.D. He was then buried in the city of Myra. Because of his goodness, many religious people travelled to the place he was buried. But during the 11th century, there was war in the area of Myra. A group of sailors used the war as a chance to steal the bones of Saint Nicholas. They brought them to Bari, Italy. That is where Saint Nicholas is buried today.

Voice 1  

If you believe the stories, Saint Nicholas is the Christmas saint. In many European countries, he is called Saint Nicholas. In Italy he is San Nicola. In the Netherlands they call him Sinterklaas. In the United States, he is Santa Claus. And in Britain, he is Father Christmas. He has many names, but the idea of the person is the same. He is a gift-giver who brings good cheer at Christmas time.

Voice 2  

But Saint Nicholas believed in a very different kind of Christmas gift. Christians like Saint Nicholas celebrate Christmas as a time to remember Jesus’ birth. Christians believe that Jesus was a gift to the world. They believe he was both God and human. And because Jesus lived as a human, he knows what it is like to have pain and hurt, joys and happiness. Christians believe that in Jesus' birth, God comes to earth. God brought the gift of hope to a broken world.

Voice 1  

Does your culture celebrate a Christmas Saint? What stories have you heard about Saint Nicholas? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at You can also comment on Facebook at

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Courtney Schutt. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Saint Nicholas, The Christmas Saint’.

Voice 1  

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

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Do you have stories about a gift giver in your country? Who is that gift giver?


Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on December 18, 2018

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: to answers the questions below
Date: Tuesday 18, December 2018
São Paulo city - São Paulo Brazil

Dear Courtney Schutt, Bruce Gulland, Liz Waid, and Michio Ozaki:

First, I want to thank you for bringing us more one fantastic story like that, thank you.
Question 1 - Do you have stories about a gift giver in your country? Yes, I do.
Question 2 - Who is that gift giver? Businessmen, volunteers, give a gift to the beggar and homeless on the streets. Also, they go to the asylums and hospitals to give a gift to poor patients.
Your regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 20, 2018

It’s good for me to watch children playing with their Christmas presents. When I was a child, my family was very poor and my father did not have the money to buy gifts for his children. But I remember that it was not a problem for us because we could manufacture our toys from the various things we found near our house and play with them without any concern.

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 20, 2018

We do beautiful good things in life. Doing beautiful good things brings us joy and peace in soul in life. We love one another and we help one another in life. Life will be better and more beautiful if there is love in life. Life has ups and downs. Our lives have ups and downs. We aim at the things enduring in life. We aim at the things safe in heaven. We do beautiful good things in life. Doing beautiful good things brings us joy and peace in soul in life. We wish one another beautiful good things in Christmastime. We wish a beautiful good world.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on December 28, 2019

From .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To spotlight program
Subject to answer to the questions below
Saturday 28, December 2019
Location São Paulo city - São Paulo brazil

Dear Courtney Schutt, Michio Ozaki, liz Waid, and bruce Gulland

For me it is a pleasure and honor to read this article again. I want to thank you for bringing us this important article again, thank you very much.
Question 1 - Do you have stories about a gift giver in your country?
Answer 1 - Yes, I have.
Question 2 - Who is that gift giver. His name is Santa Claus. However, here in Brazil it is called Papai Noel instead Santa Claus.
So, every year at the Christmas season a ordinary man or a rich man go out at the poor places to give a gift to children and poor people.
Finally, that children and people have been very happy for receiving that gifts from Santa Claus/Papai Noel.
God Bless you and I wish you a happy new year
Severino Ramos