Glenn shares the story of real-life St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra and his transformation through the centuries, from folk hero to Catholic saint to enduring symbol of Christmas in the personage of Santa Claus.
This legendary holy man gradually became a mythical figure after his death in 343. By 1100, St. Nicholas was revered for his compassion and generosity, and Christians and non-believers alike reached out to him in times of trouble and distress.
"He would come to the aid of anybody who would call on — even unbelievers," Glenn explains. "Which was a really unique thing back then. You know, 'Christ isn't going to talk to Jews or Muslims or any of those people! Certainly a saint's not going to either!' But he did. And he was known for his compassion and his mercy."
One enduring legend about the saint involves him secretly leaving gifts of bags filled with gold for a poor man who could not afford a dowry for his three daughters. This tale inspired gift-giving as part of the observance of St. Nicholas' feast day every December, which eventually gave rise to the modern tradition of giving Christmas gifts.
Eventually, of course, the legend of St. Nicholas would merge with the English character Father Christmas to create the iconic Santa Claus children around the world eagerly await every Christmas Eve.