Christmas is a privileged opportunity to meditate on the meaning and value of our existence. The approach of this Solemnity helps us on the one hand to reflect on the drama of history in which people, injured by sin, are perennially in search of happiness and of a fulfilling sense of life and death; and on the other, it urges us to meditate on the merciful kindness of God who came to man to communicate to him directly the Truth that saves, and to enable him to partake in his friendship and his life. Therefore let us prepare ourselves for Christmas with humility and simplicity, making ourselves ready to receive as a gift the light, joy and peace that shine from this mystery.
- Benedict XVI, General Audience, December 17, 2008
St. Nicholas of Myra lived and acquired his reputation for sanctity long before the Church began its formal process of beatification. He became recognized as a saint by a kind of popular acceptance. This popular saint gave rise to the gift-giving tradition now associated with "Santa Claus".
Historians and hagiographers generally write that much of what is said about Nicholas is legend. Again, remember that at Nicholas's time there were no investigation and authentication of claimed miracles before canonization took place. Attributing miracles and wonders to a person was an ancient way of expressing people's conviction about the holiness of the person.
You will still find Nicholas listed in the various dictionaries of saints, for example, Dictionary of Saints, by John Delaney (Doubleday). And you will still find Nicholas listed in the Roman Calendar on December 6. There he is assigned an optional memorial. In other words, churches and communities on that day may choose to celebrate either the liturgy in honor of St. Nicholas or the liturgy for a weekday in Advent.¹