The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas - book cover
Christian Living
  • Publisher : Howard Books; Reissue edition
  • Published : 06 Nov 2018
  • Pages : 128
  • ISBN-10 : 1982107561
  • ISBN-13 : 9781982107567
  • Language : English

The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas

Former secretary of education and New York Times bestselling author William Bennett blends his historical expertise with his gift for storytelling into a heartwarming book about the man who ultimately became known as Santa Claus.

Beloved writer and speaker William Bennett brings the legendary Saint Nicholas to life in this fascinating and faith-affirming book that will change the way you think about Santa Claus and the meaning of Christmas. Bennett reflects on Saint Nicholas's storied life, which has spanned seventeen centuries across Europe, Asia, and Africa, and reveals an inspiring tale of devotion to God and an example of eternal goodness.

The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas focuses on three aspects of Saint Nicholas-historical facts from his life, his legacy in the centuries following his death, and the legendary status that transformed his likeness into the present-day jolly, toy-bearing Santa Claus. The book vividly captures the heart and life of someone who lived long ago-and yet whose life remains an inspiration for everyone to aspire to a higher order of generosity, giving, and devotion to others.

An instant classic by one of America's most respected thinkers, The True Saint Nicholas is a memorable keepsake to be shared with family and friends every year to evoke the true spirit of Christmas.

Readers Top Reviews

GiGiRodney HallIcela
Great little story that tells the history and Christian life of St. Nicholas. Bill Bennett is a great writer and I believe my 11 yr old grandson willl be interested in reading this book.
Dana L.
I knew nothing about St nicholas. I learned a lot and thought it was a real inspirational book.would make a great Christmas gift!
R. DelParto
William J. Bennett revisits one of the most revered tales of the Christmas season, Old Saint Nicholas who has been depicted in folktales and stories that are old as civilization. From myth to legend Nicholas has been best compared and contributed to the narrative of Santa Claus of the nineteenth century to the present. Upon reading the preliminary pages of "The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas" the comparisons will surely shine a light to the man and how he came to be. The story of Saint Nicholas has been taken into account first within the Bible and then through stories parallel to Greek and Roman and folklore from various tales that come thereafter. Bennett was inspired to write of who would be the most enchanting figures in cultural history after coming upon Howard Book's edition of "The True Saint Nicholas" and how Nicholas had become very much tied to the story of Jesus Christ and how pilgrims have flocked to sites where they once stood and walked. And for Nicholas, the many have traveled a far to Bari, Italy where he has been memorialized. Bennett examines Nicholas takes and writes about the most distinct ways Nicholas has been portrayed in the most creative and unique ways from myth to legend and by young and old. Bennett clearly writes, "Why bother with the history of Saint Nicholas? For one thing, his is a fascinating story. Its sheer vastness of scale is astounding. It stretches from the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa to the Americas and beyond. It crosses oceans, deserts, and frozen arctic climes" (Kindle location 53-60). But the story of Nicholas dates as far back to the eighth and ninth century and how his journeys by ship and encounters with the most natural challenges parallel Jesus, he as a fisherman and Nicholas as a mariner steering his ship to his destination along with his fellow mariners only to be confronted with torrential storms; but the miraculous result, they made it to the destination and the storm waters steered them to Patara. It is this moment where the story begins and how Nicholas became known as the Saint that saved men from shipwrecks. With a concise chronology of events, Bennett centers upon the legendary stories when Nicholas and his tales become so familiar to the reader from the European Middle Ages to the enchanting patron saint to children from the 13th century to the present, kindness made in secret, exchanging of presents, and cakes and nuts and fruits, etc. One of the many insightful examples that Bennett shares about Nicholas arrives in the New World by way of the Dutch West Indies and colonists establish communities in Manhattan Island and bring their memories of Sinterklass AKA Santa Claus; Writer Diedrich Knickerbocker better known as Washington Irving will only enhance that memory as well by the 1820s as the story of "A Visit From St. Nick" by Clement C...
Mary Ann Horton
A lovely blend of history and Christian tradition. This marks a pleasant read that honestly focuses on the joy of Santa Claus, while acknowledging the distraction from the true meaning of Christmas. Much discussion is spent on the rise and fall of the sainthood of Nicholas of Myra. It explains how our American Santa Claus came to be.
Enjoyed reading about St. Nick and the history that ties him to the modern Santa. I recommend it to anyone who loves Christmas, Santa, and true meaning of Christmas, Christ the Lord.

Short Excerpt Teaser

The True Saint Nicholas
When most of us hear the name "Saint Nicholas," we immediately think of Santa Claus. As children, we listened wide-eyed to Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem about the night before Christmas, when "down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound." At some point along the way, we may have asked an older and wiser acquaintance why Santa sometimes goes by this alias. The answer we received was probably not very informative. And once we are all grown up, with children of our own, and by chance are asked the same question, we still are not sure. If pressed, we might guess that there was once a very good man named Nicholas, and his name somehow came to be connected with Santa Claus. But Saint Nicholas remains an elusive figure to us.

He is elusive even to scholars who study such matters. They believe that Saint Nicholas served as a bishop during the fourth century in the town of Myra, on the coast of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. He may have attended the famous Council of Nicaea convened by Constantine the Great in 325 to resolve issues troubling the Christian Church. But the details of his life and work remain sketchy. If he wrote anything, it is long gone. The first known Nicholas "biography" dates to the eighth or ninth century, long after his death, when a Greek monk known as Michael the Archimandrite assembled a collection of tales about him.

We are left to piece together his life as best we can, using what we know and a good bit of surmise to arrive at the most likely story. Often we must rely on tradition as well as clues provided by the history of the times in which he lived. If the reputation he left behind means anything, we know there was something remarkable about this holy man. For hundreds of years, his name has been invoked, his deeds recounted. His shadow falls across epochs.

Why bother with the history of Saint Nicholas? For one thing, his is a fascinating story. Its sheer vastness of scale is astounding. It stretches from the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa to the Americas and beyond. It crosses oceans, deserts, and frozen arctic climes. This is an adventure tale complete with emperors, knights, villains, shipwrecks, kidnappings, treasure, and dark dungeons. It is the age-old struggle of good against evil, of right against might.

But there is a larger reason to remember Saint Nicholas: He matters to Christmas. This saintly man who lived so long ago has come to influence one of our holiest seasons and most beloved holidays. This influence that has come across so many centuries is a kind of miracle. It is evidence of God's love.

One purpose of this book is to help put Saint Nicholas back into Christmas. It explains his connection with Santa Claus, and the common spirit they share. As you will see, Saint Nicholas makes Santa Claus a larger and richer figure than you might expect him to be.

So here is the story of Nicholas, based on what we can reasonably conjecture. It is a story worth knowing. I hope that once you know it, you will remember Saint Nicholas each December. You may never again think of Santa Claus in quite the same way. If that is the case, then this book will have achieved its aim of helping to deepen the spirit of Christmas.