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What is the legend of St. Nicholas?

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The historical Saint Nicholas, also known as Nikolaos of Myra and Nikolaos the Wonderworker, lived in what is now southern Turkey from 270 to 343 CE. He was the bishop of Myra and, according to legend, a frequent miracle worker. The modern Santa Claus evolved from stories about him.

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Nicholas was born to wealthy parents but after his parents died, he gave his fortune away to sick and poor. Throughout his life, even as bishop of Myra, he was known for his generosity to those in need. The middle years of his life included persecution, exile and imprisonment as a Christian by the Roman Empire. Upon his death, he was buried in the cathedral of Myra.

According to legend, a liquid with healing powers, later called manna, formed at his grave and carried the stories of his generosity beyond his death. Numerous other stories account miracles he performed during his life, including the resurrection of three murdered boys, secretly providing dowries for a poor father with three daughters and taking two years worth of grain from a ship without diminishing the stock of grain on board. His believed propensity for secret gift giving provided the basis for stories about Santa Claus' yearly venture.

Saint Nicholas Day is December 6th in the Gregorian calendar. He is revered as a saint in most versions of Christianity and is especially honored in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

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