The common association with St. Nicholas of Myra, when rising above the traditional chubby gent decked out in vibrant scarlet array, is primarily one of charity. Around Yuletide and the Advent season leading up to it, we ponder the greatest gift which has ever been given, and its recipients are none other than all the members of humanity. We are thinking of the birth of Christ – God made Man, God’s complete offering of himself.
It is only understandable that the culture born out of this Catholic tradition of Advent produces a figure renowned for charity and generosity of bestowing gifts on children. One of the popular traditional tales which showcases the historical Nicholas’s charitable heart is that of the three daughters of the poor man.
The story, after generations of retelling, goes something like this: There was a poor family in Myra (where Nicholas was bishop) which consisted of three daughters and their father. The father had no foreseeable way of saving up enough money to pay for the dowries of his daughters. The women’s futures seemed doomed to be ones of enslaved servitude or else of prostitution. Even if they were not taken away by a pimp, one need only look at the millennia-long history of slavery to see that women, in particular, were frequently seen as sex objects in the eyes of their masters.