The badge on our blazers at my primary school was very distinctive. A triangle of three gold circles, like small suns, set against a deep blue background.
The story behind the symbolism comes from the city of Myra on the southern Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey. At school, we were told of a once-rich merchant who had fallen on hard times so could not provide his three daughters with a dowry. Without a dowry, a young woman was likely to be sold into slavery, or worse.
The Bishop of Myra heard about the familyís misfortune. Today, he is now better known as St Nicholas. At night, under cover of darkness, Nicholas threw a bag of gold through an open window into the merchantís house. It landed in a stocking hung up by the fireplace to dry. Soon afterwards, the eldest daughter was able to marry. A little while later, another bag of gold appeared, and the second daughter was married.
Their father, wanting to know the identity of the secret benefactor, kept watch during the nights that followed, and when a third bag of gold landed inside the house, St Nicholas was identified.
In this short delightful story, so many elements of Christmas are enshrined. Hanging up your stocking on Christmas Eve. The benevolent secret visitor bringing gifts for children at night, not wanting to be seen. Gold baubles hanging on a tree. The spirit of giving and sharing.
With the backdrops of food banks and television appeals to help those suffering and in need in this country and across the world, whatever beliefs we may hold, the story of St Nicholas has a powerful resonance this Christmas.
Parish Clerk, KBPC