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The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra
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The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  69 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
With his rosy cheeks and matching red suit and ever-present elf and reindeer companions Santa Claus may be the most identifiable of fantastical characters. But what do we really know of jolly old Saint Nicholas, "patron saint" of Christmastime? Ask about the human behind the suit, and the tale we know so well quickly fades into myth and folklore.

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Hardcover, 230 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Baylor University Press
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This highly informative history pieces together what we know of the life of St. Nicholas. It is very factual, citing different accounts that connect to Nicholas' life and works, and listing the place and year of these accounts' origins. While some of these accounts are questionable, it is amazing how so many varied sources agree on several of the same basic ideas. A handful of accounts also give dates and specific names of officials involved, lending authenticity. English builds a convincing cas ...more
Alexis Neal
An excerpt of a review recently posted on Schaeffer's Ghost:
This is, I think, a great reminder to Christians of the importance of humble, everyday acts of obedience. Most of us will never participate in or even witness a physical miracle. We can’t calm the sea for endangered sailors or multiply the supply of wheat or ooze magical healing goo from our tombs, as Saint Nicholas is rumored to have done. And even if we have the opportunity to punch a heretic, it might be best to abstain (criminal ass
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Many of the books about good old "Saint Nicholas" confuse two very different persons. The difference is a subtle one. The term "saint" in Greek can be translated "osios" or "hagios" but in ancient times had a subtle distinction. "Osios" was used to describe ascetic and monastic saints, and "hagios" was used to describe martyurs and churchmen. Thus until recently there has been a great deal of confusion between Nicholas of Myra (ca. 300) and Nicholas of Sion (ca. 600). The two both lived in proxi ...more
Kevin Glenn
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In a society that sees Santa as little more than a vending machine foor our consumption, the story of Nicholas of Myra is a refreshing account of selflessness, courage, compassion, and inspiration.
Nov 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017-reads
This book was way too dry of a read. It is interesting to know about the history of Saint Nicholas but quote after quote from the Bible gets old after a while.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating look at the post-Hellenistic world. It would have been fascinating to live through this period.
Lynden Rodriguez
The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus by Adam C. English is a hagiography of Saint Nicholas of Myra, a Byzantine Saint who lived through the Christian persecutions, and the reign of Emperor Constantine, a Christian ruler who mandated Christianity to be the state religion of the Roman Empire. He is also said to have been in attendance during the first Catholic conferences at Nicea, wherein the tenants of the faith were solidified, and where the Nicene Creed was established (Nicene-Constantinopolitan ...more
Dec 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Saint Nicholas left future generations only slightly more than Jesus Christ to work with for constructing a biography. Whatever he wrote, his tax returns, proof of purchase for vestments, legal deeds and titles are all lost to the sands of time. Yet 1,700 years on his fame spans the globe either as the man himself or as his one-dimensional alter ego Santa Claus. Critics and humbugs dismiss both men as fabrications, but is it so? Was there a real man behind the myth?

This book takes what little th
Meagen Farrell
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
After dozens of kid's books on Old St Nick that are pure fantasy, I wanted something more historically accurate. This is the best I have found in this category, though it is more about the history of legends about St Nicholas of Myra than a true record of his life. I found the author flipped rather loosely between imagination and historical documents. At the same time, the vivid stories depicted several tumultuous period of Christian history. In addition to the lovable gift giver, St Nick's pote ...more
Jason Green
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
There is no doubt that Saint Nicholas did exist and that he was a faithful, God-fearing man. He was a defender of those who could not defend themselves. But more importantly, he was a fearless defender of Christianity. While this book gives great detail about Saint Nicholas and even explains how the current popular image of Santa Claus came to be, it doesn't do a great job of connecting the two. I would love to see a follow-up about the birth of the modern Santa Claus and how he came to be conne ...more
Michael Ritchie
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Study of the life of the historical Saint Nicholas. Uses lots of sources, but because the hard and fast facts of his life are few (and he gets mixed up with another Nicholas), this winds up being mostly a book about what a man of his class and calling might have lived like, rather than what he really did. Still, once you catch on, it's interesting. Surprisingly little material which connects Nicholas with the figure of Santa Claus.
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christmas-books
I usually try to read an upbeat book during advent directed at the Christmas season. I started this book last year at that time, unfortunately it was not quite what I was looking for, so I went onto something else and set this book aside to and ended up finishing it this year. Nonetheless, it is a valuable book. It is a historical review that looks at the legend of Saint Nicholas and compares it to research about the era and locale where he lived. The results are quite interesting.
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
My review depends on what you want from the book. I was hoping for a light-hearted review of some of the St. Nicholas (bishop) stories. There are some of those, but ultimately the book is a very exhaustive compendium of all that has been written about St. Nicholas and which parts are historically legitimate and which are conflated from other stories. I am sure the author took great time and energy to confirm these. Useful to know, but maybe not what you (or I) were looking for in this book.
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Well, I didn't actually finish this book before it had to go back to the library. What I did read of it was very good, though. It even initiated a night of scripture study when I got to the part about the Council of Nicea and their debate and eventual decision about the Holy Trinity. I would recommend it.
Feb 14, 2013 added it
Shelves: history
Excellent comprehensive history for anyone wanting to know about the real Saint Nicholas. I used this as the basis for a Christmas Eve sermon on the real Saint Nicholas as a true follower of Christ. The image of Saint Nick punching out Arius at the Council of Nicea is rich! No mere "jolly old elf" here!
Kim Childress
Nov 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Now when your kids ask if there really is a Santa Clause, you can say yes! And let me tell you about him… Very interesting to learn about the real person behind the legend. For more of my reviews, visit my web site, ChildressInk.
David Uptagrafft
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to David by: my Mother
Insightful about reverence and tails of early saints. Shed light on practices of relic veneration to me. No idea about the origin of pawn shop symbol, also pointed me to the book on infant baptism I read next.
Katharine Holden
Aug 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Dec 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Dry is an overstatement and this coming from someone who reads a lot of non-fiction. That said provided an interesting look into early church history through the backstory of one saint.
Christopher Sortini
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