If the legend of Santa Claus is based on a real person, does that mean Santa had descendants?
On December 6, Catholics around the world celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas, otherwise known as Saint Nick’s Day. Children leave their shoes and stockings out overnight in hopes that they will find a sweet treat or small gift inside the next morning (unless they misbehaved, in which case they might receive a stick or piece of coal!)
This tradition honors Saint Nicholas, a bishop in the fourth century who is famous for his generosity, specifically his habit of secret gift-giving, as well as the protection of children. It is this saint who is widely regarded as the inspiration for our modern day Santa Claus.
To the genealogically inclined, this begs the question: since Saint Nick was a real, historical figure, could it be possible that he had descendants?
In order to understand Saint Nick’s story we must first understand his life and his role as a bishop.
Saint Nicholas was a born around 270 AD in Patara, Lycia, a port city of the southern coast of what is now Turkey. Nicholas’ parents raised him as a devout Christian, and he ascended to the role of bishop of Myra. Though it is uncertain when exactly Saint Nicholas became a bishop, we do know that he attended the Council of Nicea as a bishop in 325 AD.
In the modern Catholic Church, members of the clergy (bishops, priests, etc.) are celibate, meaning they are prohibited from marrying or having children. However, this was not always the case. In the very early years of Christianity, many leaders were married men, including the apostle Peter. Examples of both celibate and married bishops can be found into the second and third centuries.
So how can we tell if Saint Nicholas was a married bishop? In 306 AD, the Council of Elvira was held, which is historically regarded as the first time a written decree was brought forth that required clergymen to remain celibate.
If Saint Nick was born in 270 and the council occurred in 306, there is a tempting window between the estimated date of the Saint Nicholas’ birth and the Council of Elvira where there is a possibility that Saint Nick could have had children. However, given his reputation as a lifelong devotee and the lack of any mention of a family, we can assume that the original Santa Claus did not bring forth any descendants.
Despite not having any children of his own, Saint Nicholas secured a reputation for himself as a father-figure to all children, whether they call him Santa, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas or just plain Old Saint Nick!
If you’d love to learn more about the history of the famous saint, check out our Premium article, How Saint Nicholas Became Santa Claus.