Here’s a saint study about St. Nicholas, complete with lesson ideas and activities.
By Kate Daneluk
St. Nicholas in both life and death was famous for his generosity and his strength in protecting his flock.
About St. Nicholas
Nicholas was born in the Roman Empire in the third century in the Greek village of Patara, in present-day Turkey. An only child, he was raised to be a Christian by faithful parents. Tragically, his parents both died of disease, leaving a fairly young man in charge of a considerable fortune. Nicholas, generous by nature, slowly gave away his entire fortune in true Christian fashion, helping need by need until his inheritance was spent.
Nicholas followed a vocation to the priesthood and was ordained Bishop of Myra at a fairly young age. There are numerous stories and legends about the generosity of Nicholas and of his miraculous protection of the innocent, seafarers, and children. Nicholas was a strong bishop, and took personal responsibility for the spiritual and physical safety of his flock, fighting for them through famine and war and never cowering to secular authority, not even the Roman Emperor himself.
The Emperor Diocletion was not tolerant of Christianity. Most of the clergy was imprisoned, executed, or exiled. Bishop Nicholas suffered the same fate and lived many years in exile. He was eventually released as the more tolerant leaders, Galerius and Constantine took power. He quickly removed the pagan temples and shrines, which encroached in his absence, and reestablished churches throughout his region. He participated in the Council of Nicaea in 325, where the Church addressed the divisions and heresies plaguing the faithful. Doctrines were firmed up, particularly in language used for the Trinity and the understanding of Christ’s humanity and divinity. The Nicene Creed we use today is a product of this Council.
Nicholas was a hands-on Bishop and his holiness and bravery were renown beyond his domain. He fought for individuals and the community as a whole. He would stand up to soldiers and even pleaded with Emperor Constantine for tax relief for Myra, which continues to enjoy a lower tax rate today.
Nicholas died on December 6, 343. Miracles attributed to him began almost immediately after his burial. Nicholas in both life and death was famous for his generosity and his strength in protecting his flock.
Fun facts about St. Nicholas:
We celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6.
St. Nicholas is the patron saint of:
- Repentant thieves
St. Nicholas in your classroom:
There are various subjects and topics where you can make a connection to the life of St. Nicholas:
- History/Social Studies – The Roman Empire, persecution of the Christians
- Geography – Greece, the Roman Empire, Turkey
- Literature – bravery, famine, justice, orphans, slavery, leadership
- Religion – charity, works of mercy, Council of Nicaea, generosity, courage, trust in God
- Celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas. Follow traditions like leaving shoes out for St. Nicholas to fill with goodies on his feast day. Even teens will enjoy a class in socks and a surprise treat from St. Nick. Watch one of the videos available. Learn about the saint and enjoy the special foods and traditions celebrated throughout Europe and Asia. The St. Nicholas Center offers many resources for teachers to create a St. Nicholas celebration.
- Let the older students play St. Nicholas to the younger students, filling their shoes in the hallways, acting out and reading stories about the saint, and maybe even dressing up as the famous bishop to greet the children and pass out treats.
- Nicholas has numerous stories of generosity and bravery and those of miracles revealing his unwavering trust in God and obedience to His will. Break your class into small groups and have each act out one of these stories.
- Older students can write about St. Nicholas’ life and the Santa connection. Some people think it is best to differentiate between the two and others believe it is important to note the similarities. Students can choose a position for a persuasive essay or stage a seasonal debate.
Kate Daneluk is a former Catholic school teacher, early childhood music teacher, creator of the Making Music, Praying Twice music curriculum, and a homeschooling mother of six.