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The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  172 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews

A touching rendition of the historical origins of our modern-day Santa by an in-demand speaker reacquaints us with the true meaning of Christmas.
Kindle Edition
Published (first published October 12th 2009)
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John Martindale
It was interesting to hear the history and traditions surrounding good ol' St Nick and it is something how many legends formed around this man during the medieval period. The last half of the book concerned the many traditions of gift givers throughout Europe, the raucous winter solstice and the reaction against the saints by the Protestants. Later on how a Poem, a Cartoon artist and Coca-Cola Advertizements played a role in American traditions and also about the melding of Father Christmas, Kri ...more
Uri Brito
Dec 01, 2012 Uri Brito rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are too many unknown facts, as Bill Bennett rightly asserts. Much of the historical data is purely speculative with the exception of a few references, poems and prayers in honor of Saint Nicholas. The Roman Catholic tradition has largely exorcised ol' St. Nicholas from the Church, while the Eastern Orthodox tradition continues to celebrate his life every December 6th.

Bennett provides a pleasant read filled with fantastical stories and a delightful context to the Bishop of Myra.

The records
Dec 05, 2009 Sasha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited when I saw this book. Maybe 2 stars isn't fair, maybe my expectations were too much from Bennett. I read it in a couple of hours. It just didn't affect me much other than to say that it opened my eyes more to the saint worshipping of Catholics and I found that disturbing.

There's no doubt that Saint Nicholas was a wonderful man. This book does provide more background and history than many other accounts, albeit somewhat speculative. Still, he was made into a medieval superher
Tamara Hill Murphy
For a few years now I've been reading up on this saint each December. His story is beautiful. If even a few of the accounts of his ministry are true, he is a model for all of us to follow. I'm especially touched by the account of him using gold coins from the inheritance his parents left him when they died young (leaving him an orphan) to rescue 3 unmarried daughters of a poor man. Their father could not give them a dowry and, in that day and custom, this meant no man would marry them, forcing t ...more
Dec 27, 2014 Eden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saint Nicholas was a real person who lived during the fourth century. Many miracles were attributed to his name. Throughout the centuries his image has changed and he has been known by many names. Today we know Saint Nicholas as Santa Claus.

But it took a long time for Saint Nicholas to become the modern Santa Claus and this book is very informative on the life of the Saint Nicholas. The author explains we can't know every that story of Saint Nicholas life was true, but he included all the storie
Jan 05, 2012 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a quick interesting read expounding on some of the myths and legends of Saint Nicholas and how he evolved into the American Santa Claus. One new thing I learned was that the German Christkindel (Christ child) who delivers gifts on Christmas was Americanized to Kriss Kringel with immigrants and then eventually merged together with Santa as well. The history and morphing of Santa is just interesting to me. Good read.
Dec 18, 2012 Joy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William J. Bennett is a master researcher who pieces together and tells a story in a compelling manner. The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas provides a look at how Santa Claus came to be. In three sections, the reader learns about St. Nicholas--his life (fact and speculation) and the myths surrounding him--and about how a young bishop's life gave rise to a very commercial modern figure known as Santa Claus. Through a brief, quick read Bennett shows how important the lessons surro ...more
Dec 03, 2012 Sandi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...anything good is open to being exploited. In fact, anything good is likely to be exploited. Such is human nature. Saint Nicholas, in his heyday was arguably just as overused and overexposed as Santa Claus is today."
This statement (p. 111) sums up much of how I felt about this book. St. Nicholas was a good, generous minister who was exploited in life and death.
I enjoyed the first section of the book. It details with what little historical truth that survives regarding the real Nicholas.

I did
Leah Beecher
This was a Sunday afternoon read. A book I will be using in homeschooling. I found this book to be very well written in that it was clearly researched, yet comes right out to say that the actual historical evidence about who was Saint Nicholas is very scant. It is a great book for young students in that it starts the first few chapters very descriptively about what life for a boy like Nicholas may of been like; written as describing his days as this is how it happened. That is important for hist ...more
Jeffrey Williams
William J. Bennett's book The True Saint Nicholas covers a lot of ground in just a few pages. He succeeds in getting the most important points across without going into great details to tie the history of the Bishop of Myra with the jolly modern gift-giver. It is a good primer for those who are first inquiring to the history of the Santa Claus, but is not deep. Still, this is a good book to start from in understanding the history of this Christmas tradition.
This is probably a great book if you have little to no knowledge about the actual man named Saint Nicholas - the Catholic bishop of Mynra. For any of us who have grown up knowing the Catholic history of the man, this book is just nothing new.
Marianne Bucci
Jul 03, 2010 Marianne Bucci rated it liked it
Very interesting account of the life of St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, and how he evolved into the present day Santa Claus. European immigrants brought their traditions honoring and celebrating St. Nicholas to the US. Advertising campaigns in NY which highlighted Dutch origins of the state,
Thomas Nast's famous illustration, Clement C. Moore's classic poem, Macy's Department Store, and CocaCola Company had important roles in deveoping the Santa Claus we recognize today. The book stresses the
Katrina Anderson
If you are expecting something academic, you will be disappointed. If you are expecting a light, sentimental read on a holiday subject, you will be satisfied. I did not like the sentimentally of Bennett’s style, but I learned a lot of facts about Saint Nicholas and can even apply some the knowledge I gained to my research in art.

He told his story and was mercifully concise. I learned a few things, but not many. Bennett seemed to be mostly evangelizing. Yawn.
Nov 19, 2015 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This wonderful author tells the facts and legends behind Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus along with some church history.
Dre McDermott
Dec 14, 2014 Dre McDermott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick, festive & informative read to get you in the Christmas spirit.
Michael Donlan
This was a quick & informative read. It is broken up into 3 parts. The first portion discusses the real Nicholas from his youth to his time as bishop of Myra. The second portion discusses how his legend grew. Finally, the last portion (which I thought was most interesting & the reason for which I read the book) covers the transformation of St. Nicholas into Santa Claus. The book is only around 100 pages. I thought it would be a nice read for the Christmas season. I couldn't believe that ...more
Kelsey Andrews
I could read this book every Christmas!
Feb 16, 2010 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I like that this book was short and a fast read, but even so I felt bogged down in the history and legend of St. Nicholas. I wish the book had focused more on how modern day people celebrate St. Nicholas and why. I think the real man has been passed over a lot today (in fact I still have no idea why my mom puts presents in my stocking on St. Nicholas day, and I bet she does not know why, either), and this book didn't do a great job explaining why St. Nicholas matters to Christmas.
Dec 05, 2012 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and informative. A great quick read.

From pg. 114 "Santa Clause is, in a very real sense, the result of a Christ inspired goodness that has rippled across seventeen centuries, from Nicholas's time to our own. Despite secularization and commercialization, Santa Claus is a manifestation of Nicholas's decision to give to others. The history of Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus is a kind of miracle in itself. It is a legacy that resonates with God's love."
Jan 02, 2011 Zoe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
If only all Saint's biographies were this well organized and easy to read. Bennett tells you about the famous Bishop in all aspects, starting with Truth, moving to legend, and finally, lore. We learn who Nicholas the Wonderworker is possibly the most famous of the Orthodox saints, as well as how he became the Santa Clause our children love today. The only possible improvement would have been a map illustrating his many travels in the 4th century.
Andrew Canavan
Dec 30, 2015 Andrew Canavan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fall-2015
Pretty okay introduction to Saint Nicholas and his legacy.
Feb 17, 2010 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scrooges
Says Bennett--although the stories of Saint Nicholas are "perhaps not literally true," they are "arguably true in a more important way. They are morally true." Saint Nicholas matters to Christmas because the stories of him convey "the goodness of the gift offered with no expectation of anything in return." Saint Nicholas embodies a tenet central to Christian life--to serve others.
Oct 21, 2010 Janet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-books
My family loves St. Nicholas; we celebrate his feast day every December 6. It kicks off the holiday season for us; and is a tradition that I hope my kids will continue with their own families. Why, then, am I so disappointed that a book about a saint has so much religion in it? I'm not familiar with William J. Bennett's other books--maybe he is not my type of author.
A cute way to spend an hour or two of your time during this period of the year. Most of the lore about Sankt Nikolaus (as we call him in Germany) is nothing new, but this book is an enjoyable read and you may just discover a thing or two (hint: Santa Claus was NOT invented by Coca Cola). Now I need to do some research to find out what is the deal with Knecht Ruprecht! :)
Aug 03, 2011 Liane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My birthday is December 6, which is Saint Nicholas Day. I felt inspired by stories of generosity, kindness, justice, and self-sacrifice of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is honored in Europe, and has materialized as Santa Claus in America. ..."But Santa Claus also stands for virtues that Saint Nicholas champions: compassion, service, selflessness, and largeness of spirit."
Nov 23, 2015 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is interesting to learn the history of Saint Nicholas and how he has been celebrated.
William J. Bennett does an excellent job of telling the story of St. Nicholas, and weaving in both Church History and American history. It's probably a bit long for children, but adults will find it interesting, as well as older children who want to know more about the background of St. Nicholas and where Santa Claus came from.
Dec 16, 2009 Terzah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick read, really just a series of anecdotes about the elusive historical St. Nicholas and then a recounting of how he morphed into his modern self. The tone sometimes makes this sound like something you should read aloud to elementary school kids.
Jan 03, 2011 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up as fluff reading at my parents. Turned out not to be that fluffy, but very good. It's a great little history of Saint Nicolas, both fact and legend, and how he evolved into Santa Claus. Would definitely recommend it to pretty much anyone.
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William J. "Bill" Bennett is a politician and author who served in the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, as chief of National Endowment for the Humanities and later Secretary of Education under Reagan, and Drug Czar under Bush. He is a nationally well-known figure of political and social conservatism and authored many books on politics, ethics, and international relations.
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