Today is St Nicholas’ day, the day when many children in mainland Europe receive gifts. St Nicholas was a bishop in Turkey and the story goes that he would leave coins in the shoes of people who were poor, in particular there is a story told about him involving 3 sisters. They came from a poor family and both their father and St Nicholas were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to marry as they had no dowry, so he secretly gave three purses of gold, one for each daughter. Some versions of this story say that he dropped them down the chimney so that they would be seen as a gift from God and they landed in the girls stockings that were drying by the fire! From him developed the idea of Santa Claus and is the reason that Santa Claus is sometimes referred to as Old Nick.
St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and pawn pawnbrokers the three golden balls that traditionally hang outside their shops representing the three purses of gold. Slightly ironic I feel that someone who gave to the poor ends up being the patron saint of people who make money from the less fortunate!
Today we can remember his generous spirit and while Christmas is still a way off maybe we should all take time out today to give a gift to someone else in need. Be it donating money to a charity, giving tinned food to those who help the homeless, volunteering to do some charity work or anonymously putting some money in an envelope and posting it through the door of someone who we know will be struggling this Christmas.