On the St. Nick Punch

I know this story isn’t precisely new to Cathologosphere, but frankly, it’s irresistible. During the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325) there was a big argument over the divinity of Christ. Arius — a heretic — was of the idea that Christ was not divine, but rather a mere creature. The Council gave him leave to speak, to defend his claims, and he did, yammering on — I have no doubt — in a relentless flood of sophistry.

Jolly Old St. Nicholas — oh yes, he was a bishop — wasn’t having any of it. He tried to listen patiently, he really did, but Arius’ speech was just so wrong, that he was compelled to get up in the midst of it and, yep, punch him in the face.


I hold that this is the image of Santa Claus we need to reclaim. Because when you think about it, this was the original campaign to Put the Christ Back in Christmas. Arius would have made the nativity a non-event (woop-de-freakin-doo everyone, God made something else). He, majestically prefiguring the various sects of Happy-Holiday-ers, Winter Solstice-ers, and it’s-actually-a-pagan-holiday-ers (that’s the point, you muppets!) denied that Christmas need be a celebration of substance at all. So when the modern world promotes the consumerist image of Santa Claus over the image of Christ, it is not so much the wrath of Christ they should fear as it is the wrath of Santa Claus. He may very well climb down the chimney and wup yo ass.

Christmas is about this singular, terrible reality: That the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In the spirit of St. Nick; accept no substitute.

All of which leads me to the belief that our Christmas carols need to be rewritten in light of the Grand Punch of St. Nicholas. It wouldn’t be too hard, we could sing: “Jolly Old St. Nicholas/Lend your fist this way,” “I saw Dawkins rocked by Santa Claus/flying from the podium last niiighht,” and of course, “He sees when you’re dissenting/he knows when you’ve blasphemed/he knows your schismatic doctrines/and so he’s gonna punch your face/Oh, you better not doubt/You better not divide/You better not bring scandal to the Holy Roman Catholic Church/I’m telling you why/Saaaanta Claus is smacking you down,” etc. etc.

So thank you St. Nicholas, for your inspired punch. Oh I almost forgot the end of the story. I’ll let Taylor Marshall, who writes over at Cantebury Tales tell it:

Now if that were the end of the story, we probably wouldn’t know about Saint Nicholas, and our children wouldn’t be asking him for presents. However, after Nicholas was deposed, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Nicholas who was being held in a prison cell for his fist-fight with the heretic.

Our Lord Jesus Christ asked Saint Nicholas, “Why are you here?” Nicholas responded, “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.”

Christ then presented Nicholas with his copy of the Gospels. Next, the Blessed Virgin vested Nicholas with his episcopal pallium, thus restoring him to his rank as a bishop.

All in all, St. Nicholas is the man. In the spirit of Patheos Book Club’s recent review of Between Heaven and Mirth, I am opening up the combox for a) hilarious captions to the above picture, and b) giddily mirthful corrections of Santa-Claus-related christmas songs in light of his most excellent and inspiring triumph over heresy. The most funniest gets a prize.

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  • Jay E.

    Actually, there’s debate as to whether St. Nick was actually there. This is because he’s not listed as one of the bishops. Others contest that’s because they wrote him off for punching either Arius or an Arian bishop. St. Nick was also imprisoned and tortured brutally, and of course he was from Turkey. Far from being a jolly old fat fellow, he was likely this dark skinned, tough, swarthy, scarred and emaciated bishop with an ardent charity and a ready fist.

    I think, listening to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with this understanding, for the most part the song needs little change. Santa Claus is coming to down, guys, so for GOODNESS’ SAKE DON’T BE NAUGHTY!! He is comin’ to town, and he KNOWS. This, of course, makes St. Nick a far more effective deterrent to ‘naughtiness’. Perhaps he may give you gifts, but if you’ve been bad…

    Also, we should really start pushing for the understanding that not only does St. Nick give you coal if you’ve been bad, he may do far worse things if you’re a heretic.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595816746 Ashley Miller

      Hmm… a parody challenge? I like!
      Here’s a quick one a’la Frosty.

      St. Nick the bishop
      (to the tune of Frosty the Snowman)

      St. Nick the Bishop
      Was a generous old soul
      From a middle-class kind of family
      (though they died quite early on)

      Then as a young man
      Through a di-vine twist of fate
      He was made Bishop
      But you may not know
      Of his righteous uppercut

      Down in the town of Nicaeae
      When Bishop Arius talked
      Speaking forcefully
      ‘gainst the Trinity
      Nick did lose his cool then –Pop!

      Point of the story
      Is that he was a real man
      Who got p.o.ed
      When others to-
      -tally minimized Our Lord

      It’s hard to picture
      That the Santa we all know
      Was based upon
      This zealous man
      Who persued the narrow road

      Slapity Slap-Slap
      Slapity Slap-Slap
      Look at St. Nick go

      Slapity Slap-Slap
      Slapity Slap-Slap
      Better than “Ho-ho-ho”!

  • Cal-J

    You may enjoy this tale, then – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knecht_Ruprecht

    German folklore sometimes talks about Rupert the Farmhand, an assistant of Santa Claus who will ask children if they can pray. Yes, can. Those who answer that they can receive apples, nuts, and gingerbread. Those who say nay get beat upside the head with Rupert’s bag of ashes.

  • Daniel Collins

    Very Cool Post, I actually just posted an original poem on my blog regarding that punch…….it should be sung to an Irish drinking tune. purewhiterose.blogspot.com/2011/12/saint-nicholas-day-poem.html

  • Santa fan

    Arius the Bloody-nosed Heretic

    You know Luther and Calvin
    And Wesley, and John Smyth,
    John Knox, Nestorius,
    Eddy and Joe Smith.
    But do you recall
    The bloodiest heretic of all?

    Arius the bloody-nosed heretic
    Had some dissenting views
    And if you ever heard them
    you would have left your pews.
    Most of the other bishops
    Used to laugh and call him names
    But a few of the others
    did believe in his claims

    Then stood up St Nicholas
    and moving from his place
    “ότι είναι αίρεση!” *
    Then he punched him in the face

    That caused the other bishops
    All to shout out with glee
    “Arius you bloody-faced heretic
    You’ll go down in history!”

    ότι είναι αίρεση (“O-tee I-nay I-re-say”) – “That is heresy!”

    • Santa fan

      actually, the proper way to say “that is heresy” is: ἐκείνη ἀπόστασης ἐστί (“e-KAY-nay ah-POE-sta-says es-TEE”)

  • Timothy Steele, II

    You forgot the most important part of the story.

    St. Nicholas was kicked out of the Council, and he was threatened to be defrocked. He later returned to the Council and asked forgiveness of both his brother bishops and of Arius.

    While it is all good and fun to shock people by showing that jolly ole’ St. Nick can lay down the law, not mentioning the humility and repentance of asking forgiveness takes away from the story, IMHO.

    Just my 2 cents.

    - Tim

  • Karyn

    Wow – I’ve been reading my kids all of the wrong stories about St. Nick. My eight year old would love this story – though I will be quick to point out that he asked for forgiveness afterwards. My kids write to St Nicholas asking for help with something they struggle with, then I write a letter in St. Nicholas’s place telling them what they’ve done well with this year but also what St. Nicholas would want them to work on this year – but this story adds a whole new dimension to being sure to follow his advice.

  • Timothy Steele, II

    Also, caption for picture:


    • Equinox

      ah…”of the same material” (as God) …nice.

  • Jmsteve4

    I’m a bit confused about your “it’s-actually-a-pagan-holiday-ers (that’s the point, you muppets!)” statement. Because I’ve been debating that with a friend. Im not sure exactly what pracices about Christmas are pagan-holiday-based (he quotes the date, Santa Claus, and christmas trees). In any case, I can’t see anything evil about them and think that some practices are a good thing (like putting a star on the Christmas tree), but then he says that being from a pagan practice, even if the intent has changed, is bad and banned in the Bible. Of course, he also practices every holiday from the old covanent. He says we celebrate a holiday if it isn’t explicitly proclaimed in the Bible, no matter the purpose, it is evil. So anyone have more information about the point of these “pagan pracitces” as we have them now or any better arguments for me? I suppose he’s just following his church’s interpretation of the Bible here, but I can’t believe they don’t see Jesus’ birth worth celebrating.

    • Lily

      The date was moved to December to coincide (sort of) with the Solstice, a common pagan celebration having to do with the darkness turning to light. Christ is the light of the world, so the symbolism still works for us. I’m not sure about the Christmas tree, but there were many pagan religions with sacred trees/groves (they they were usually alive and were often oaks, not pines or furs). Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas, pure and simple. Some countries don’t have Santa Clause bringing presents on Christmas, but on St. Nicholas day (today!) while other countries have a similar custom for St. Lucy’s day, or present-giving customs associated with the 3 magi. I don’t see some figure bringing presents as a pagan thing (are there any pagan religions which include this?).

      I would tell your friend this:
      A) Christianity often borrows things from other culture/belief systems because we noticed the value of those things. We aren’t worshiping pagan deities, but merely borrowing symbolism. One reason this was done in the very early church (before Christmas was even celebrated as such) was because of persecution in Rome. If you walked around saying you were christian, you could get into trouble. If you walked around with a symbol that could be passed off as pagan in a pinch, you could be spared a lot of pain and death. Later, many pagan symbols were “baptized” and made into something Christian. Just as a person, whom God made and loves, can convert from paganism to Christianity, so to can symbols which are basically neutral/good (geometric shapes, animals, celestial/natural objects) that were once used in pagan worship be turned into a Cristian symbol.

      (B) Pagans don’t own the Solstice. Any temporal, natural, or geometric symbol is fair game for any religion to use because we’re all humans and we all live on earth (most of the flack I’ve gotten about holidays has come from my pagan friends, so I have to remind people that we didn’t “steal” any cross-quarter or solstice timed celebrations… we just happen to also live on a planet that rotates and tilts.) So it doesn’t matter that All Hallow’s Eve, Christmas, or any other day falls at the same time as a pagan one. We notice the shift in light and length of days just as ancient peoples did, so why shouldn’t we sink our holidays up with them? I guess what I would ask your friend is, what is actually evil about a celebration near the Winter Solstice?

      Sorry for the long post. Hope this helps :)

      • Jmsteve4

        Oh the length is no problem, no worries. =)

        Huh I haven’t heard of looking at it this way before. Most of the info about it I found said that they moved the holdays right next to the pagan ones and added some of the customs so that pagans would convert, which I don’t think really counts as conversion. Plus, I don’t think the church would compromise like that, you know, since it doesn’t compromise on things like abortion now, Which makes me think the people writing them really had no idea.

        I’ve always looked at is as putting the Chirstian holidays next to the pagan ones so that it’s extremely clear that there is a dfference betweenthe two, and so that the Christians could show their faith as opposed to that of the pagans. I never thought of them having to sneak around, but I guess that makes sense. After all, not everyone in the early Church had to shout from the rooftops. There’s something to be said for not getting yourself killed, right? Using signs everyone uses that only others understand… It’s like the underground railroad! Hahaha.

        I like your idea that the things are neutral. Because then we’re not taking from the pagan holiday at all- we just happen to be using the same external basis, and for a reason. So he can’t claim that it’s from a pagan holiday if it’s only from the same cause… I still think he shouldn’t be so freaked out even if Christmas was somewhat inspired from a pagan holiday, since I really don’t think we do anything pagan, but he claims that even it’s a pagan holiday even if there’s nothing pagan about it. In either case, this disproves that idea.

        Thanks a lot for the imput! Any ideas about why we’re allowed to create this holiday? Like I said, they follow every Old Testament holiday to the letter and don’t understand that it’s about the idea not the physical practice that was perscribed thousands of years ago.

        • Lily

          Hmm… well, I guess I would say we’re allowed to create this non-Old Testament Holiday because Jesus was born after (and in fulfillment of) the Old Testament. Many prophets told of the coming Messiah; we just celebrate the day that their prophecies came to fruition! When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate God coming to be with us. If the Old Testament Jews were alive today and knew that Jesus was God, I think they would celebrate Christmas too.

          As for celebrating every Jewish holiday:
          First of all, Jewish Law only applied to Jews in the time of the Old Testament. There are mentions of non-Jewish Christians not being required to follow all Jewish practices (such a circumcision!) in Acts and I think in some of Paul’s letters. This is mainly because when Jesus came, not only did he fulfill the old Law, he made a New Covenant. The old holidays were part of the old covenant, sort of a tiding-the-Jewish-people-over until the Messiah came (Mark has a really good post explaining why we don’t need to follow old testament law… I just can’t remember what it’s called ><). Now that God has made a new covenant with all humanity, not just the Jews, we aren't required to follow the old law. This is why we needn't stay Kosher or celebrate the festival of Boothes or anything. However, some parts of the Old Testament were based on natural law (Thou shalt not kill, etc.) which is why Christian still hold these beliefs to be true. Jewish Law applied to Jews until the Messiah came; natural law applies to everyone.

          There are probably better explanations than this. I would look on the Catholic Answers: Ask an Apologist website. They explain everything very well!

    • Rodneymallard

      My pastor explains this very well in a video. http://youtu.be/8pV9-mxcsKY
      It’s called Truth or Tradition. It will totally ..in depth explain it to you. I just learned the truth myself about 6 months ago. Its very eye opening and freeing. Just in case I didnt copy it right..it is Jim Staley with Passion for Truth Ministries. Look him up his teaching can help you. May God be with you on this journey! Rodney

      • Christy Hampton

        This is a dumb video by a guy who knows nothing about the Catholic Church, symbolism or Truth. If you would like to address any stupid point in it please feel free to contact me.

  • QDefenestration

    It’s so great seeing the cross-pollination between Steubenville and UD bloggers.

  • Anonymous

    Jmsteve4, you might ask your friend why he uses words like Thursday (Thor’s Day) or January (which comes from the old Roman god Janus), if he is so bent on avoiding anything pagan inspired.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RS2NGO5O4VTWXTXB2H2Q6Z6TDM Sky

      Not to mention Tuesday (Tyr’s day) Wednesday, (Woden or Odin’s Day) Friday, (Freyja’s day) Saturday (Saturn or Cronus’s day) and Sunday and Monday, as the sun and moon are probably the most worshipped of all pagan deities.

    • Jenna

      How odd it changed my name to my email… weird.

      He argues both that it’s a pagan holiday and therefore evil and that we don’t need to make up any hoidays. So I suppose that would get him on the pagan holiday thing since in order to keep using them he’d have to admit meaning can change, but that doesn’t counteract the other one. Or he’ll just do what he did last time: He referred to Christmas only as Xmas so he wouldn’t have to relate Jesus to it, but then when I told him that the X stood for the cross, he started calling it “your holiday.”

  • http://girlwhowassaturday.blogspot.com/ TGWWS

    I started this, and then thought, “Oh, hm, not the Christian spirit.” Then I thought, “What the heck!” To the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”:

    God rest ye merry, heretics, St. Nicholas is dead!
    Feel free to all regurgitate what Arius once said,
    And fear no jolly fisticuffs from bishops wearing red,
    O tidings of comfort and joy!

    In Bari he is buried though in Myra he was born,
    They say that he will rise again, but not till judgment morn,
    And in the meantime, friends, feel free to laugh his faith to scorn,
    O tidings of comfort and joy!

    What’s this? A strangely shining light is glowing from the tomb,
    A scorching radiance that burns and sanctifies the room;
    St. Nick has risen wrathfully pronouncing words of doom!
    O tidings of comfort and joy!

    He rides his white horse down the streets, Black Peter at his side;
    His crozier is leveled to destroy the doubters’ pride;
    Still spouting words heterodox? You’re in for quite a ride!
    O tidings of comfort and joy!

    We thought after a lesson gauged their heresy to quell
    He’d bring them back as penitents, and we’d get on quite well;
    But they’ve been gone so long I guess it’s tighter now in hell!
    O tidings of comfort and joy!

  • KK

    the Vortex had St. Nick’s punch animated … @ 1:08 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsstRycYwiQ

  • Priest’s wife

    I blogged a bad song as well on the subject of St Nick


  • Christine Smith

    Here’s another take on the episode, and a suggestion for Santa:

  • Shank Rosenthal

    No caption or hilarious song to suggest but I do think an action movie featuring St. Nicholas and Moses the Black a la Tango & Cash is called for.

  • Rosevean

    You’d better watch out, you’d better not try
    To speak heresy, or you’ll get a black eye –
    Saint Nicolas is coming to town.

    He’s making a list, and checking it twice,
    Gonna find out who’s gnostic and gnice,
    Saint Nicolas is coming to town.

    He likes your orthodoxy,
    He hates your heresy,
    And he floats like a butterfly, but he stings just like a bee!

    You’d better watch out, you’d better not try
    To speak heresy, or you’ll get a black eye –
    Saint Nicolas is coming to town.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dan.ortiz.54 Dan Ortiz

      Im so sorry about this but I HAVE TO SHARE your rendition with the world…

  • Anthony

    “Bring a Tissue, Jerome, Athanasius” – to the tune of “Bring a Torch, Jeneatte, Isabella”

    Bring a tissue, Jerome, Athanasius
    Bring a bandage, for Arius is down
    Nick got mad cuz his words were outrageous
    and now he is going for the other cheek.
    Ow, ow, hold still, Arius, you idiot
    No, no, hold down that wiry ol’ Nick.

    Quiet now, in the jail Nick is praying.
    Was it wrong to let his fist fly?
    Silence now as his sobs make an echo
    and the sound of it travels to the feet of Our Mama.
    Why, why, why did you do it?
    Cuz, cuz, cuz I just love you.

    Hasten now, you bishops and elders
    Hasten now, and check old Nick out:
    You will find Him with Bible and pallium,
    Singing to God, still waving those fists.
    Huh, huh, guess his left hook was divine
    Huh, huh, guess Christ doesn’t mind a good fight

  • Gracy

    lol. And I actually laughed out loud when I read this. I know these are old post. but I just found out about this blog and it is taking me a while to go through all the blog. I really enjoy them. Let me know if you ever write a book about Awesomeness of being Catholic. I would totally buy it especially if it includes some of these blogs. Thanks Marc. Keep Catholic and God bless!

  • Beau Quilter

    So … atheists like me should watch out for a punch in the face from one of you Christians? I suppose that if I protest your lack of evidence for God, you’ll set me straight by magically making Jesus and Mary appear beside you?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RSMXMX25OI2QDXOTUO6VTYXX3Y anacrusis

      God isn’t a genie who comes out when I rub the magic lamp, uhkay? But if I could pick His ineffable mind for a few moments, I would ask Him why is seems that some of His creatures were made without a sense of levity, and if it is possible to grow one… ;)

      In other words, relax, I’m 99.5% certain we’re not going to punch you in the face (and not just because we’d actually be punching our screens, which would be painful and potentially costly). There are lots of anecdotes out there that are amusing for one reason or another, yet have a decided “do not attempt this at home” factor.
      I’m also certain that if jolly old St. Nick earned canonization, he must have repented of the act, even if not the motivation for doing it.

  • Not a sheep

    You are a dumb cunt.

  • Montague

    The already-Nicean Christmas hymn is “Adeste Fideles” – O Come All Ye Faithful.

    1. O come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant,
    O Come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
    Come and behold Him, Born the King of angels;
    O come, let us adore Him,
    O come, let us adore Him,
    O come, let us adore Him,
    Christ the Lord.
    2. God of God, Light of Light,
    Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
    Very God, Begotten not created. Chorus
    3. Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation;
    Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
    Glory to God, In the highest;
    4. Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning;
    Jesu, to Thee be glory given;
    Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing.

  • Bold Believer

    GO Nick GO! Ol’ Arius needed a butt whippin’ for tellin’ those lies. I can’t stand heretics either. Jesus used a whip, ST. Nick used his hand. Now and then, it’s a good thing to let the wicked ones know who’s in charge down here. Hint: IT AIN’T THEM OR THEIR MASSA SATAN!

  • Bold Believer

    Maybe the next time some alleged preacher tells a heresy, say “Gay marriage is OK”, or “Abortion is OK”, or “Evolution is in the Bible” (so on and so forth) maybe some believer who has just had enough can introduce that heretic to the Spirit of St. Nick.