With the very notable exception of Suge Knight, obese men in red suits are very infrequently described as badass. But when you scratch beneath his jolly exterior, Santa Claus is one of the most epically badass men to ever roam the globe. To be clear, we’re not talking about the Santa Claus that Coca Cola invented and Tim Allen perfected, but rather the real man, the actual Saint Nikolaos of Myra who inspired the holiday icon.
Because before he was a massive jerk to Rudolph, jolly old Saint Nick was a jolly old badass. How badass?
He punched a guy…during a religious debate
Outside of the time Jesus went rage tornado on those money changers in the temple, religious icons are not usually known for their violent tantrums. But since St. Nick’s body was merely an overburdened vessel for his giant, steel testicles, he ignored both the letter and the spirit of his religion by slapping a heretic during a philosophical disagreement. (via St. Nicholas Center)
Arius, from Egypt, was teaching that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father…As Arius vigorously continued, Nicholas became more and more agitated. Finally, he could no longer bear what he believed was essential being attacked. The outraged Nicholas got up, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face.
That’s right, Saint Nick didn’t debate Arius with reasoned words or targeted body shaming; he just slapped the guy. Granted this story might be part-legend (committed to the annals of history with a painting), and substituting fists for words is almost always the tactic of assholes and/or bros from Boston, but Saint Nick’s heretic slap still has to be one of the most badass actions ever performed by a saint.
It’s right up there with the guy who gut-stabbed a dragon; that was pretty metal, too.
He did some time
Unfortunately, the stiff backhand, effective rhetorical device though it may be, was as looked down upon in the 300s as it is today. After the slap, Nikolaos was stripped of his title of bishop and thrown in jail. But much like Andy Dufresne, “some birds just aren’t meant to be kept in a cage; their feathers are just too bright.”
When the jailer came in the morning, he found the chains loose on the floor and Nicholas dressed in bishop’s robes, quietly reading the Scriptures. It was determined that no one could have visited or helped him during the night. [Emperor] Constantine ordered Nicholas freed and reinstated as the Bishop of Myra, and his fear would later be declared one of many miracles [attributed] to the saint.
Since Nikolaos only spent a day in jail, scholars have only been able to conjecture exactly many quill point prison tattoos he received in the joint, but the most popular guess is “all of them.”
He was a wingman to the ladies
Evidently, the plague made women a lot less picky back in the olden days, because they didn’t just agree to marry a man after a series of wallet-punishing dinners at the Black Angus; they had to pay for the privilege of getting hitched. Granted, the practice of dowries had some other economic/social/patriarchal reasoning behind it, but let’s not lose sight of the important piece of information here: women in the olden days had some Anistonian-level difficulties locking down a man.
So when Nikolaos found out that three girls were too poor to afford a dowry, he took matters into his own heretic-assaulting hands. (via St. Nicholas Center)
There was a man, once rich, who had fallen on hard times. Now poor, he had three daughters of an age to be married…This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery, or worse…Coming in secret by night, [Saint Nicholas] tossed a bag of gold into the house. It sailed in through an open window landing in a stocking left before the fire to dry…The first daughter soon wed.
So when you’re digging presents out of your stocking this year, take a moment to think about the kinda weird, undeniably awesome charity of Saint Nick, then take another moment to think about the oppression of women that made him throw loot-sacks through the window in the first place.
He tamed the sea like mighty Neptune
St. Nick was born to a wealthy family. Like most children of wealthy families, as a young man, St. Nick was irresistibly drawn to travel and (presumably) whatever the equivalent of The Dave Matthews Band was back then.
So another rich kid took a “trying to find himself/succeeding in finding HPV” trip; nothing particularly badass about that. Also, Saint Nick’s trip was a pilgrimage to the holy land, which made his voyage an even worse premise for a light-hearted, heavy-nudity coming of age romp.
But things got interesting for Nikolaos as his boat sailed past Egypt. (Via St. Nicholas Center)
Nicholas foresaw that a violent storm was coming, although no one else suspected this. After he warned the crew, at once black clouds appeared in the sky and a violent storm arose, churning up the sea. Everyone was afraid and they all begged Nicholas to rescue them. They cried out, “Unless you pray to God to save us, we will be swallowed up by the sea!”
Encouraging the passengers and crew to put their hope in God, the saint sent up fervent prayers to the Lord. At once the waters became calm, and the passengers were filled with joy. A fair wind filled the sails, and the boat sailed quickly and safely to Alexandria in Egypt. For this reason, and because of other miracles brought about by Saint Nicholas at sea, he was eventually named the patron saint of sailors all over the world.
If you’re keeping score that means Saint Nick has the superhuman powers of ocean mastery and rage slapping. He’s like a more aggro-Aquaman who talks about Jesus all the time. Which, to be fair, is still a significant improvement over regular Aquaman. Not turning this man’s life into a comic book is literally the worst thing the Catholic Church has ever done. [Figuratively]
He solved crimes…with even more Bible magic!
All saints are required to have certain recorded miracles before they are canonized by the Catholic Church. One of Saint Nick’s miracles sounds like something Eli Roth would construct after being locked in a closet with a sock full of peyote and a Hans Christian Andersen anthology. (Via St. Nicholas Center)
[Three lost children] came to a lighted butcher’s shop, knocked and said, “We are lost and hungry. May we eat and sleep?” “Oh, yes,” came the reply, “do come in.”
As they enter, the butcher takes a sharp knife, cuts them up, and puts them in a large salting tub. Seven years pass.
A knock comes on the door. Bishop Saint Nicholas appears, saying to the evil butcher, “Open your large salting tub!” The saint puts his hand on the tub and, appealing to God, says, “Rise up, children.” The little children awake and stand up. Their families joyfully welcome them home.
That’s right, Saint Nick not only shut down a serial killer, but he used his saintly powers to Lego those butchered children back together. There are no mentions of what happened to the wicked butcher after this, so one can only assume that Nikolaos anger-slapped him to death.
As the holidays approach, let’s not celebrate Santa Claus for being the fat man in the red suit with morally dubious labor practices. Instead, let’s remember the real man, the sea-taming, marriage-financing, children-resurrecting, heretic-slapping, inappropriately aggressive dude who inspired the Christmas mascot.
Because as the life of Saint Nikolaos of Myra has proved, there really is a reason for the season…and that reason is that Santa Claus is a stone-cold badass.