Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saint Nicholas: 4th Century Abolitionist?

The Christmas season is here. For many of us, this is a time of celebration and reflection on the birth of Christ, and, though many would argue it’s gotten too commercialized, it’s also a time of gift giving. 

St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Lycia
Although it's not my primary focus during Christmas, I do enjoy giving gifts to others. This year I find myself reflecting on gift-giving in a new and fresh way... considering the life of Saint Nicholas.  I don’t mean the jolly Santa guy with the reindeer; I mean the actual man who was Saint Nicholas. It's his story that bears repeating and even weaving into our own Christmas traditions (if you don't already).

First, to be honest, I didn’t know much about Saint Nicholas other than the fact that he is the basis for Santa Claus and that he distributed gifts to needy children long ago.  When I was growing up, he was just the "jolly ol' St. Nick" from Clement C. Moore’s classic, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas. So, recently I was taken by surprise as I scanned the radio channels and heard a brief snippet of a story that St. Nicholas had rescued children from slavery.

I had to go learn more about him.
Indeed, his life story is about much more than simply giving gifts, stuffing stockings, and coming down chimneys... 

St. Nicholas giving the dowries
Saint Nicholas was a church bishop during the 4th century in Lycia (modern-day Turkey). For me, here is the most moving part of his story:

A certain poor family could not afford proper dowries for their daughters, meaning the girls would never have the chance to marry and thus be forced into a life of prostitution. Coming at night to remain anonymous, St. Nicholas gave ("threw in the window" or "down the chimney," or "into the girls’ stockings hung out to dry") the family three bags of gold coins for the dowries and thereby rescued the young girls from a life of sexual slavery.  

So, according to this account, Saint Nicholas was an abolitionist. Wow. I had no idea. Now that's a part of "St. Nick's" story worth keeping alive forevermore in our Christmas giving!

Whether you already knew this story about St. Nicholas or you’re just hearing it for the first time, may it inspire you, as it has me, to give gifts with meaning this year - gifts that help those who have been enslaved. There are many ways to do this. Here are just a few:

1) Support survivors of slavery around the world AND right here in your own community.
You know the person (or persons) on your list who already has everything and needs nothing. This is just the gift for them!

Make a donation in your loved one's name to:
- International Justice Mission ( - IJM provides rescue and supportive aftercare for survivors internationally.

- Amirah (
Want to help in the Greater Boston area?  Please consider supporting Amirah. You can do that here  and now with a simple click to the right of this blog.
Also, Amirah is launching its 12 Days of Christmas campaign - an opportunity to provide for some of our basic, practical needs. Click here for more details: Amirah's 12 Days of Christmas

Rescuing and supporting those who have been enslaved is truly a gift worth-giving this Christmas. It’s a tradition that began long ago and far way with Saint Nicholas. I want to bring it closer to my heart and my home this year.

What will you be giving this year?
Tell us! We'd love to hear from you.

Jodi is a stay-at-home mom and a passionate supporter of Amirah.

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