Today (Dec. 6, 2013) is the Feast of St. Nicholas, or as the secular world knows him - Santa Claus.
St. Nicholas was actually the fourth-century bishop of Myra. He was a powerful leader who rescued women from sexual slavery, interceded on behalf of condemned prisoners, saved sailors from storms and provided dowries to young women in the form of stockings of gold thrown into their chimneys.
Rev. Nicholas Ayo, C.S.C., professor emeritus of liberal studies at the University of Notre Dame, is the author of "Saint Nicholas in America: Christmas Holy Day and Holiday."
According to Fr. Ayo, St. Nicholas' acts of kindness were without conditions or expectations, different from the secular Santa Claus we know today.
"The conditional nature of gifts from Santa is all wrong," says Ayo. "The meaning of Christmas is a gift from nowhere--we get gifts simply because--much like the gift of a bag or stocking of gold thrown in the window or down a chimney," he said.
Find out more about Fr. Ayo's research on Saint Nicholas the ND Arts and Letters website.