In the beginning there really was a St. Nicholas who was born around the year 280 AD. He became Bishop of Myra, a Roman town in the south of Asia Minor. Nicholas earned a reputation as a fierce defender of the Christian faith in the times of Christian persecution and spent many years in prison.
But none of the early representations of St. Nicholas look ‘fat and jolly.’ As recently proven by forensic anthropological studies of the Saint’s remains which rest in the Pontifical Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Puglia, Italy, St. Nicholas was a thin man with olive skin, a beard and gray hair. So much for that rotund jolly man with a red nose and rosy cheeks.
Still, the legend lives on all around the world, with Santa Claus and Babbo Natale representing the Christmas Spirit; the Spirito di Natale. His kind, all-knowing face is a sign of love to children… a reminder that in fact, they are loved… by God, by Santa and by their parents and siblings. He is a symbol of what Christmas is all about – the Good life that God gave us.