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Ask An Eastern Orthodox Christian: St. Nicholas Bag

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By Nicholas Damascus

What is the tradition and meaning behind a St. Nicholas bag?

Saint Nicholas was a bishop of Myra who in the early church (fourth century AD) was a leader in defense of the Christian faith.  He was known for many miraculous events and of his great generosity of giving secret gifts to the poor.  One of the most famous events was about a destitute man having three daughters for whom he had no dowry to wed them.  The only option for this man was to sell his daughters into prostitution. 

Saint Nicholas hearing of this misfortune wanted to help.  And so the saint during the late evening hours went to this man’s home and pitched a bag of gold through one of the windows and turned tail and ran to remain anonymous.  The next morning the man found the bag of gold and giving glory to God used this gift to marry off his eldest daughter.  

The saint hearing of this man’s efforts to save his daughters from their dilemma prepared a second bag of gold and again repeated the same event tossing this bag through the window of the man’s home.  And as before, the man used this bag of gold to marry off his second daughter.  The unsuspecting man was mystified as to whom the benefactor was and decided to stay awake at night as much as possible to catch sight of his secret patron.

St. NIcholas Bag/Photo from StNicholasCenter.org

It was not long before Saint Nicholas came a third time, walking very quietly, and again cast a bag of gold through the window. The father seeing this third bag of gold pursued this mysterious person and catching up to him recognized him as Bishop Nicholas, who was known to all of his dedication to the faith, virtuous life, and generosity.

Saint Nicholas compelled this man to swear that he would tell no one what had occurred as long as the saint remained alive.  It would be difficult to substantiate the origin and tradition of the Santa’s bag; however, one could suspect it had to do with the bags of gold and the symbolism of giving something of great value, that is the compassion and love we should all have for one another.  

A more complete story of the saint’s life can be found at this address below


Nicholas Damascus

About Nicholas Damascus

Nick Damascus is one who seeks to discover and apply the proverbial question of what is truth and wisdom, to fill that gaping hole, to become complete and to become realistically and synergistically functional. In an attempt to live the Christian life, which he says is a definite work in progress, he has discovered that he's created the Christ that fits his lifestyle and agrees with his ego (and boy what an ego, he says), carefully avoiding what God intended him to be.

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