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Why is St. Nicholas the patron saint of children?


Shutterstock | jorisvo

Philip Kosloski - published on 11/30/22

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, not because of his gift-giving abilities, but based on a legendary rescue mission.

St. Nicholas is well-known as one of the primary patron saints of children. Many assume that this is because of the modern-day “Santa Claus” tradition.

However, originally it had nothing to do with gift-giving.

St. Nicholas is generally believed to have been a 4th-century bishop, and in a collection of legends about his life, the tale is told of how he saved children who were slaughtered at a butcher shop.

This legend was put in a ballad by Gerard de Nerval.

There were three little boys very poor
They went to the fields agleaning

At night they came to a butcher’s house
“For a lodging we beg thee good butcher.”
“Yes little boys come in, come in!”
“There is room for you assuredly!”

They had no sooner entered the house
When the butcher, the cruel, he killed them.
He killed them and then he cut them in slices.
In the salting tub he kept them like pork.

This is when St. Nicholas comes to save the day. after stopping at the butcher’s shop.

“Butcher, butcher, do not run away!”
“But pray God, he may forgive thee.”

Then St. Nicholas went to the tub
He held up three fingers and said,
“My little boys who sleep beneath,”
“I am the great Saint Nicholas,”
“I command you, Awake, awake!”
The little ones they get up quick.

This story was very popular over the centuries and gained St. Nicholas a heavenly reputation for helping children.

While it may not be a fireside story to tell your kids, it does help explain a little bit about the history of St. Nicholas.

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