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The Real Santa Claus: Patron Saint of Pawnbrokers

Posted by cuttingsjewellers on December 1, 2014

19_St._Nicholas.jpgThe big white beard, the red robes and the jolly laugh; the Santa Claus our children know and love today has been refined over a period of centuries. Although his present-day appearance has been influenced by folklore, tradition and the media, the origins of Santa Claus can be traced back to the real St. Nicholas: the patron saint of pawnbrokers.

St. Nicholas was born in 270 AD in Lycia, an area now found in coastal Turkey, and became a bishop in Myra when he was just a young man. He was a selfless man, dedicated to helping others in need through his generous giving and prayers of intercession. People attributed many miracles to the prayers of St. Nicolas, which is why he is also known as “Nicholas the Wonderworker.”

But why, exactly, is St. Nicholas seen as the patron saint of pawnbrokers?

Rumour has it that the universal symbol of pawnbrokers has something to do with a famous story about St. Nicholas and one of his good deeds. When St. Nicholas was alive, it was custom for families to provide a dowry for daughters who wished to be married. In order to save a poor man’s three daughters from a life of servitude, St. Nicholas secretly threw three bags of gold through his window.

This act of kindness inspired many – even the noble Medici family who are said to have incorporated three of the balls into their coat of arms to represent St. Nicholas’ three gold bags. Subsequently, when half the family split to become pawnbrokers, they took half the coat of arms with them, which became the three gold balls we recognise today.

The discreet way in which St. Nicholas provided financial help also draws comparisons to the way that pawnbrokers offer a discreet, quick solution for those needing some extra cash. But it’s not just pawnbrokers of which St. Nicholas is a patron saint – he’s also the patron saint of merchants, repentant thieves, archers, pirates, brides and, of course, children.

Several of St. Nicholas’ traditions still live on at Christmas. In many European countries, children leave out shoes on the eve of 6th December, St. Nicholas’ Day, so that they may be filled with gifts as a reminder of St. Nicholas’ generosity. The tradition of Christmas stockings is also loosely linked to St. Nicholas, as he used to leave his secret gifts in stockings and shoes that were warming by the fire.

So, there you have it, Santa Claus was real, and he’s the patron Saint of pawnbrokers!