Fourth-century Orthodox Christian Saint Nicholas the Wondermaker was the patron saint of sailors, merchants, travelers, children, thieves, pirates, pawn shops, Russia, baked goods, prostitutes, badass Viking warriors, and the phone call from the governor that keeps the warden from frying your balls into Danish pancakes with eighty thousand volts of divine retribution. He survived the cruelest tortures the Roman Empire had to offer, became a Bishop without ever having even been a priest, was worshipped as an analogue of Poseidon by Greek sailors for centuries after his death, and allegedly once cracked notorious heretic Arian in his stupid face with a fat knuckle sandwich because Nick was convinced that idiot would know the Holy Friggin’ Trinity if he ground it down into powder and smoked it along with whatever brand of back-alley street crack he was obviously already inhaling on a regular basis.
And when he wasn’t rolling through the Council of Nicea rocking the gobs of apostates with thunderous uppercuts, Saint Nick was so damn charitable that to this day his dead body literally excretes some kind of fluid that people rub on themselves or drink or something because they think it will cure their life-threatening diseases.
Let’s see Santa Claus beat that.
It bears mentioning here that most of what we know about Saint Nicholas the Wondermaker is pretty suspect, since most of it was written several hundred years after he died and was jotted down by people who were already actively in the process of praying for Nick to intervene and make God do nice stuff for them. Like, for instance, we can’t even confirm that he was even at the Council of Nicea, let alone that he ran up and shoryuken’ed the balls off Arian while 300 Bishops and the Emperor Constantine the Great stood there cheering like those hopefully-off-duty army guys who hang around in the background of Guile’s level in Street Fighter II. But we can’t confirm that he didn’t do this either, and I’ll argue that the inclusion of an epic face-punch in the Saint Nicholas mythology is testament enough to how tough this dude was.
Nick was born to a totally-loaded Greek family in Parara, a nice enough town on the coast of present-day Turkey. When he was still a boy Nick’s parents contracted some weird like syndrome or something and unexpectedly beefed it, leaving Nicholas enough money to buy himself a Ferrari 458, wrap it around a telephone pole at 95 miles an hour, and then buy a second Ferrari and crash that into the flaming wreckage of his first one. He opted not to do this, however, and instead he became a monk and gave every last piece of gold he had to charities, beggars, homeless people, orphans, single moms, sad-looking puppies, non-union manual laborers, down-on-their-luck street performers and half-dead liberal arts majors.
One day Nicholas was hanging out in the Mediterranean port city of Myra and all the Catholics there decided this guy was so cool and holy and stuff that he should be the Bishop, even though he was only like 20 years old, had never even been a priest and, quite possibly, might never have even been to Myra before. But, who cares, he became the Bishop of Myra because he was good like that apparently. Which was pretty cool until the Roman Emperor Diocletian suddenly decided he really hated Christians and had all the Bishops in the Roman Empire bound with chains, thrown into prison, and beaten repeatedly about the face and chest with red-hot pokers and other implements of cruel and unusual punishment until they couldn’t remember the difference between the Holy Ghost and a white-hot poker in the eye.
Surviving a badass medieval Roman torture chamber for a few months was no party, but he was eventually saved from the dungeon of horrors when Diocletian abdicated the throne and new emperor Constantine the Great passed an Imperial Edict saying that Christianity was cool again. Constantine let him go, and Saint Nicholas began Walking the Earth doing great things to help out anyone who needed his charitable assistance. After his ordeal, one of Nick's main missions was to seek tolerance and justice for wrongfully-convicted prisoners, and on more than one occasions he rushed in and stopped an execution by grabbing the sword of the would-be executioner in dramatic fashion. So now he's the patron saint of that too.
One of his first acts after his freedom was to help out this poor family in his town by becoming the Patron Saint of Huge Balls.
Apparently there was this super-nice poor old farmer dude who couldn’t afford a good dowry for his daughters and was all worried that if he couldn’t marry them off to nice boys they’d end up becoming hookers or slaves or something, so Saint Nick came to their house in the middle of the night and threw three big balls of gold in his window, each one landing in the sock of a different girl. The next morning the farmer woke up and saw the Saint Nick’s balls and he was really happy for his daughters because now they weren’t going to have to become prostitutes. But, if things had gone differently, Nick is still the patron saint of prostitutes so he'd still take care of them anyways because he's chill like that.
Nowadays people in Europe commemorate Nick’s midnight skylight gold-plated balls attack by putting oranges in their kids’ stockings on the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas.
ST NICK BE MAKIN’ IT RAIN BALLZ
Interestingly, this was not the weirdest Miracle Saint Nicholas has been credited with. No, that honor goes to the time he busted a serial killer and brought three kids back from the dead like some kind of Law & Order: SVU episode where the guest star is a 13th-level Dungeons & Dragons cleric.
That story goes like this: There was this psychotic butcher who killed three kids, cut them up into tiny pieces, and kept them in a barrel of brine because he was going to cook them up like hams. Nicholas, being imparted with unspeakable divine power, brought the three kids back from the dead. The butcher, horrified by what he did, immediately repented.
Like I said, some of these stories are hard to verify. But in some parts of Europe, Saint Nicholas’s day is celebrated by Nick giving out presents to the good kids and this dude beating the bad ones with a stick until they cry.
I am not joking about this.
Nicholas is also the Patron Saint of sailors, not only because of the charity work he did at the docks throughout his life, but because he also apparently had the power to calm the ocean. One time he was coming back from a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine, and the waves got really bad, so he prayed for God to calm the ocean. And he did. The sailors were so impressed that they started using him as a saintly analogue for Poseidon, and built churches to Saint Nick in port towns from Russia to Italy. To this day, Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of the Greek Navy.
Of course, even though he had this connection to Poseidon don’t go thinking he was soft on any of that heresy nonsense. One story has him destroying the Greek Temple of Artemis and chasing out demons with a stick, and those assholes got off easy compared to the ultra-heretic Arian.
The Council of Nicea met in 325 to discuss the Arian Question, which sounds like a racially-charged propaganda booklet but was actually a Catholic debate over whether Jesus was the son of god AND ALSO god himself or if he was a separate also-God entity that was related to God God but not really the same thing. Naturally the way to solve this was by getting 300 bishops and the emperor together and fistfighting it out, and it was at this council that the afore-mentioned alleged HOLY BEATDOWN occurred. In addition to pimp-slapping a heretic, Nicholas also helped form the Nicene Creed, a statement of faith still repeated in Catholic and Orthodox Churches to this day.
Nicholas died around 343 AD, and was Sainted a few years later. His body was guarded by the Varangian Guard of Constantinople – a badass set of hardcore Swedish and Russian Viking warriors who served as the bodyguards of the Byzantine Emperors. The Vikings guarded Saint Nick’s body until the 11th century, when security got lax after Alp Arslan whipped the Byzantines’ balls at the Battle of Manzikert and captured all of Asia Minor, and in 1087 a random group of Venetian sailors broke into his tomb, stole half of Saint Nicholas’s skeleton, moved it to a the Italian town of Bari, and built a church on top of it. The skeleton, which can still be seen today, is famous for producing manna di S. Nicola—a weird oily substance that excretes from the deceased holy man’s bones and can allegedly be used as medicine to cure life-threatening diseases. I’m not sure whether you drink it or use it as eye drops or rub in on you like Icy Hot or what but if you’re ever in Bari you can buy a vial of it and see what happens I guess.
The church became one of the most popular pilgrimage spots of the Middle Ages and was visited during most of the Crusades.
Dixon-Kelly, Mike. Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend. ABC-CLIO, 1998.
Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena. Visible Ink, 2007.
New Catholic Encyclopedia. Thomson/Gale, 2003.