This entry is part [part not set] of 3 in the series The Truth About Santa Claus

I’m not sure how it happened, but the modern picture of jolly old St. Nick, with rosy red checks, ear to ear smile, and a belly like a bowl full of jelly, couldn’t be further from the truth of who St. Nick really was.

St. Nicholas (AD 240-343) was the bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and lived through the brutal Diocletian persecutions of the early 4th century. While many Christians gave in to their torturers and denied Christ, Nicholas held strong and maintained his confession. As a result, he was beaten, exiled, and ultimately thrown in prison, where he continued to be tortured. All the while, bishop Nicholas maintained his confession and lived to see the day when persecution of Christians was banned at the Edict of Milan in 313.

A decade later—and this is where it gets good—Nicholas was one of the bishops who attended the first ecumenical council at Nicea in AD 325. Emperor Constantine, newly converted (?), presided over the meeting, and several bishops were given the floor to expound on their theological views. Most notorious was bishop Arius, who was famous for denying the deity of Christ. As Arius carried on, old St. Nick was more aggravated than jolly, as he squirmed irritably in his seat listening to Arius’s heresy. Nicholas was committed to (what would be) the orthodox position that Christ was fully human and fully divine—Nick spilt a few pints of blood for this conviction. So finally, Nicholas couldn’t take it. He got up from his seat, marched to the front where Arius was spouting off, reared back and straight socked Arius right in the face!

“You just got Kris Kringled, son!” shouted out St. Nick.

Ok, well I made that line up, but the rest is true, as far as I can tell.

What I find fascinating is that our society has replaced Jesus with St. Nick, when all along the original St. Nick would be horrified at this. Nicholas bled for Jesus, was tortured for Jesus, and when Jesus’ name was being attacked (from his point of view) he got into the ring for Jesus.

When we replaced the birth of King Jesus with Santa Claus, we bring shame on both the King and his most feisty defender.

So you better watch out this Christmas season. Don’t make the mistake of Arius and miss the real meaning of Christmas. St. Nick is making a list and checking it twice, and if your theology is not in order, you better watch your back, cause jolly old St. Nick may drop down your chimney and open up the can on you!

Merry Christmas, and let’s get ready to rumble!

For a brilliant retelling of this story, see

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  1. Haha! Loved this! Nice little bit of humor (kind of…) to break up the normally very serious thoughts.

    Unless you were shooting for very serious responses…if so, I got nothing since I’m really torn on the whole Santa Claus or not thing. I don’t want my kids to not believe and spoil it for others’ kids who do, but at the same time, I personally am not a huge fan of the Santa Claus stuff and would rather focus on God coming to earth as a man, and how He was miraculously conceived and born.

  2. So, was St. Nick’s last name Athanasius, because I was under the impression Athanasius punched Arius. Just curious, I could be mistaken 😀

    Also, my wife has been working on any amazing article: Santa is an Anti-Christ… I like the historical context to your reminder that this season is about our King and not some inebriated man with an eating problem. It reminded me of her article. In a nutshell:
    Santa is omnipotent(to deliver gifts all over),omnipresent (sees you when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake), omniscience (he knows if you’ve been bad or good),a moral enforcer (so be good for goodness sake), and is just all around a false gospel : works based lifestyle for temporary meaningless gifts, doing things for personal, selfish motives if not for some immaterial ideal (goodness). This is all counter to the grace based, personal, eternal, life giving relationship and love of Christ our King.

    Also my contribution to her article: Santa =s+a+t+a+n It’s an anagram

  3. Malone,

    Thanks for dropping in. Ya, I heard the whole Athanasius thing too, but from the research I did, it was St. Nick and not Athanasius and they are not the same person. But if you dig up something different, let me know. I’m not an expert on this stuff.

    Sounds like a great article!

    • So the legend goes: “A later writer claimed that after Arius had presented his case against Jesus’ divinity to the Council, Nicholas hit Arius in the face out of indignation. Nicholas was kicked out of the Council for this offence, and jailed as well.”

      There are paintings/frescoes depicting this event. Of course you may be interested in the rest of the story:

      “However, according to this account, that night the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision to many of the bishops of the Council, telling them to forgive Nicholas, for he had done it out of love for her Son. They released Nicholas and allowed him back into the process the next day.”

      Hagiographies make for interesting reading, to say the least.