Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How I met my wife (and Peter, too) Part 1

Many years ago, I had no workshop. In fact, I had no real home. I just moved from place to place as needed.

I wasn’t widely known as Santa Claus.

I was Nicholas, a man born in what is now Patara, Turkey (though I was connected with Myra).

Oh, I was a gift-giver – that was a special blessing allowed me by the Lord (I’ll explain how some other time) – but not just at Christmas.

I traveled throughout the Christian world helping in any way I could. Christianity had not yet spread around the world, so my travels were generally limited to Europe, the Middle East, and parts of northern Africa.

I would arrive in an area, buy a house and some land where I could have privacy, then tried to help the poor, and especially the poor children.

I would give gifts of money, medicine and food, and, of course, some toys. But often I had to make sure the child was healthy enough and fed enough to play with toys.

I would work with local people – some of whom figured out who I was – to set up ways to help the poor. Many organizations that help the poor and needy to this day can trace their roots back to those charitable societies and special collections we started then.

We would help at any time of the year. But, of course, holiday times were times when people would far more easily remember those in need, or the idea of giving gifts, so gradually my work focused more and more on those times. To this day, holidays such as my feast day (December 6), Christmas, The Feast of the Three Kings, and others are special times for gifts (I don’t just work on Christmas, you know!).

Once the local people were ready to run things on their own, I would move on.

After I was gone, people would tell stories about me. Some of the stories got exaggerated. Sometimes good deeds others did were told about me. Sometimes good things I did were told about others. Soon, there were all sorts of legends about me and other gift givers.

As long as the stories captured the spirit of love and sharing, I didn’t mind.

Of course, I couldn’t help the whole world, even though God had given me special abilities.

Despite my best efforts and of those who helped me, there were still children who were poor, and hungry and sick.

But God sent other people to help in their own ways, as well.

That’s how I met my lovely wife.

My travels had brought me to Bavaria in what is now Germany. I had bought a house and land in the woods near the small village of Kringlesburg.

There had been a war fought near here, followed by a drought. Disease and hunger were affecting all the towns and villages in region. Many people had no money, and little food.

The soil on the land that I bought was poor – but I had a way of helping things grow. And, by this point, a few elves had begun to help me. They had green thumbs – in some cases, literally!

Of course, they had to keep out of sight during the day. People did not understand elves. Unfortunately, some elves had earned people’s fear because of the tricks they played. Some of those tricks were unkind.

Not my elves, though (at least no longer!)

They were helpful in growing food. They knew how to make all kinds of medicines. They were skilled workmen, and they had ways of sneaking in and out of houses without being seen. I learned a few tricks from them, I can tell you.

The elves did a lot of their work at night. They would do all sorts of chores on the farm, plant crops, and sneak into the forest to find all the medicinal plants hereabouts.

They also began to sneak into neighboring farms. They farmers would wake up to find their sick animals feeling better, their broken farm tools fixed, their leaky roofs repaired.

During the day, people could see me – a portly old man with a white beard – and my companion Peter.

People later came to call him Black Peter. That’s one of the legends I wish I could get rid of!

According to the legends, Peter was the devil. I had by magic enslaved him, and so now he had to do what I ordered.

Not true! But, as is often the case, the legends have a little bit of truth in them.

Peter had been a slave before I met him. He had escaped and lived by stealing.

One night he saw me, a fat, old traveler, with many bags on my horses. And all alone.

He snuck into my camp to rob me after he thought I’d gone to sleep.


Next thing he knew was he was tied to a tree, and I was studying him.

“Let me go!” he yelled. “My men will be here soon, and they will do terrible things to you!”

“Oh,” I said. “There are many trees and plenty of rope waiting for them.”

“I...I know magic,” he said. “If you don’t let me go, I will …I’ll call down fire from the sky.”

“Good, it is a bit chilly tonight,” I said.

He thought for a moment, then he quietly said, “I know these parts. I could guide you.”

“Ah,” I said, “now you are beginning to sound more reasonable. But I don’t think I will let you go yet.”

“Are you afraid of me?” he asked.

“Not at all,” I answered. "But there are bear in the woods, and I’d be afraid for your safety.”

At that moment, a mother bear and two cubs came out of the woods.

He screamed.

“Hush, now,” I said. “You are safe while you are with me.”

The mother bear sniffed the air.

“Yes, your nose is right,” I said. “I do have a bit of honey cake.”

I stood, and took a cake out of my pack. I put it on the ground in front of the bear. She sauntered over to it, sat down, and broke it into three pieces. She gave a piece to each of her cubs, then ate the last one herself.

When they finished, the cubs went over to my prisoner and began to sniff his feet.

He was whimpering.

“Mother bear,” I said. “You don’t know where those feet have been. Perhaps you should call your cubs away.”

She grunted, and the cubs rejoined her. They slowly began to walk back into the forest. Just as they were about to disappear into the darkness, the mother bear turned to me and snorted.

“You’re welcome,” I said.

“You can talk to bears?” my prisoner asked with awe in his voice.

“In a manner of speaking,” I said, smiling. “Now, having seen how I was able to tie you up without you even knowing what happened, and how I can carry on with bears, can I trust you not to do anything foolish if I set you free?”


“First things first,” I said. “What is your name?”


And that’s how we met. When I set him free, he told me his life story. How he had been a slave to a cruel master who beat him and who taught him to steal. How he had escaped one night when his master had had too much to drink. How he had lived by his wits for years, stealing what he needed.

“Ah, you are a devil,” I said, though with a smile.

It turns out he did not know what the devil was. His master had not taught him about religion. In fact, his master had not taught him many things, including how to read or write, or how to take a bath (which, to be honest, was one of the reasons I knew he was sneaking into my camp!).

I taught him many things, and in time baptized him. He traveled with me not as a slave or a servant, but as a friend and co-worker.

And he does none of the things people say he does, such as beating bad boys and girls.

It was Peter who first spotted my future wife.

He had gone into the forest to find some mushrooms for our dinner when he spotted a person walking down a well-traveled path.

He came running back to find me.

“Nicholas,” he called.

I was in the barn brushing my horse.

“I am here,” I called out.

He rushed into the barn.

“There is a person in our woods all covered with cloth,” he said.

“Covered with cloth?”

“Yes, like a robe from the top of his head to his feet.”

He led me to the path, and we cautiously went in the direction the person had gone.

Finally, we spotted the person near a tree. We faded back into the bushes so we could no be seen (one of the tricks the elves had taught me!).

I immediately recognized what the person had on.

“That’s a costume to protect one from bees,” I whispered to Peter.

I pointed to the tree the person was near. There were bees flying in and out of a large hole.

The person approached the hole and began to sing!

She – for clearly this was a she – had a beautiful voice. The song was a strange one, almost like a bee’s buzz.

I noticed that the bees were settling down on the tree.

Still singing, she reached up inside the tree and pulled out a honey comb. She gently removed the bees from the comb, then put it in a basket. She reached in and got a second comb out, and did the same thing.

Then she stepped back and stopped singing.

“Thank you brother bees,” she said.

She walked away a few feet, then took off the cloth that had covered her head.

She had golden hair and blue eyes that flashed with life and laughter.

I had never seen anyone so beautiful in my long life.


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