When Santa Punched a Heretic in the Face: 13 Memes on St. Nicholas

During the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325), Arius was called upon to defend his position on the inferiority of Christ. Saint Nicholas just couldn’t listen to all of Arius’ nonsense and so he stood up and laid in to Arius with his fist.

Nichols Punch Meme 2

Listers, St. Nicholas was born in AD 270 and became the Bishop of Myra in Lycia (modern day Turkey). He died on December 6, 343 leaving a legacy that would grow into a strong and multifaceted cult. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”. Although he is usually referred to as Sinterklaas, he is also known as De Goedheiligman (The Good Holy Man), Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas) or simply as De Sint (The Saint). His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints. The actual feast day of St. Nicholas is December 6th.1


Russian icon depicting St Nicholas with scenes from his life. Late 1400s or early 1500s. National Museum, Stockholm.
Russian icon depicting St Nicholas with scenes from his life. Late 1400s or early 1500s. National Museum, Stockholm.

On Becoming a Bishop

Nicholas was born a Greek in Asia Minor during the third century in the city of Patara (Lycia et Pamphylia), which was a port on the Mediterranean Sea, and lived in Myra, Lycia (part of modern-day Demre, Turkey), at a time when the region was Greek in its heritage, culture, and outlook and politically part of the Roman diocese of Asia. He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents named Epiphanius (Ἐπιφάνιος) and Johanna (Ἰωάννα) according to some accounts and Theophanes (Θεοφάνης) and Nonna (Νόννα) according to others. He was very religious from an early age and according to legend, Nicholas was said to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara. He tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader and later ordained him a presbyter (priest).

The Council of Nicaea

In 325, he was one of many bishops to answer the request of Constantine and appear at the First Council of Nicaea. There, Nicolas was a staunch anti-Arian and defender of the Orthodox Christian position, and one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed.2

The following excerpt is taken from Taylor Marshall’s venerable blog, Canterbury Tales.3

During the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325), Arius was called upon to defend his position on the inferiority of Christ. Saint Nicholas just couldn’t listen to all of Arius’ nonsense and so he stood up and laid in to Arius with his fist.

The Emperor Constantine and the bishops present at the Council were alarmed by Nicholas’ act of violence against Arius. They immediately stripped Nicholas of his office as a bishop by confiscating the two items that marked out a man as a Christian bishop: Nicholas’ personal copy of the Gospels and his pallium (the vestment worn by all bishops in the East).

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.

The story of Our Lord and Our Lady visiting St. Nichols is depicted in his iconography. Notice the images of Christ and Mary bringing to St. Nicholas a copy of the Holy Gospels and his episcopal pallium.

St Nicholas Icon 2Taylor Marshall explains the iconography: “Christ (left) holding out the book of the Gospels, and Mary (right) holding out the episcopal pallium, Nicholas (center) holding the Gospels and wearing the pallium.”

He further explains, “When the Emperor Constantine heard of this miracle, he immediately ordered that Nicholas be reinstated as a bishop in good standing for the Council of Nicaea. Today we recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday so we know how the controversy played out. The bishops at Nicea sided with Saint Nicholas and Saint Athanasius and they condemned Arius as a heretic. To this very day, we still recite in the Creed that Christ is ‘God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.’”



Punching Arius in the Face


Nichols Punch Meme 2

Brace Yourself Santa Nichols Meme

Nicholas Awkward Meme

Nicholas Icon Meme 2

Nicholas Icon Meme

Nichols Punch Meme

Santa List Meme

Santa Matrix Meme

Santa Nichols Meme Police

Santa Slap Batman meme

Tough Man Santa Meme

Nicholas Meme Icon Council

Santa Punch Meme Matrix

  1. Sources: Copied from Saint Nicholas and Sinterklass, cross references with Catholic Encyclopedia’s St. Nicholas – though much scholarship has taken place in the century since the CE article was written []
  2. Source: Taken directly from St. Nicholas. []
  3. Source: Canterbury Tales article Saint Nicholas Allegedly Punched This Heretic in the Face… Who was He? – cf. Taylor Marshall’s video on St. Nicholas []
  • Craig

    Thank you!

  • DilloTank

    How wonderfully refreshing.

    Merry Christmas!!

  • Rob B.

    Up to the heretic, smack, smack, smack!
    Down to the jail went Good St. Nick!


  • Very nice. Here’s my piece from last year :) http://traditium.com/category/poetry/


    • Andre


  • Linda

    If you are gonna be heretical, you’re gonna get “Bish” slapped!

    • Steve

      You win the Internet for the day.

    • kim

      Good one!!

  • Matthew J. Ogden

    Wonder how many bishops today would have the chutzpah to tell heretics where to stick it. George, Chaput, Burke, Bruskewicz, . . . Not many others.

  • Great info to rebut secular Santa Claus flood! I’m passing to our DRE who’s upset about SANTA! Still looking for
    great St Nicholas pix/portraits to use with text in parish bulletins. Merry Christmas and God Bless! Don

  • TRose

    “And I just ran out of presents.” Hilarious!

  • Non Ymous

    With all due respect, how Christian was it for St. Nicholas to punch Arius? Jesus Christ did not once raise his hand against anyone, indeed, when Peter cut of the centurions ear, he admonished Peter for his violence. It is disturbing to see this post and many of the comments. God Bless!

    • Justin

      And yet Christ made a whip and drove out the moneychangers with it. I guess Christ did raise his hand against someone

      • Neo

        A whip on the back is one thing. The sword of the inquisition killing the innocent is another…

        • Leigh

          Someone’s been getting his history from Monty Python again.

          Even if it were true that the Church approved of and killed a lot of innocents in the Inquisition, that is completely irrelevant to the point – Christ DID raise a whip, and so the idea that He never “raised a hand” to anyone is false.

    • His anger was righteous (good), not self-righteous (bad).

  • Grady

    I’m guessing this was the beginning of the Church being intolerant of other interpretations and beliefs concerning the trinity and role of Jesus. Anyone who must resort to violence in a debate is a person who cannot control his emotions and cannot use intellect and logic to do their fighting for them. Not to mention that it doesn’t seem consistent with the teachings of Jesus. I think it’s sad.

  • Linda

    He was human. He lost his temper. The irony, and what makes it so funny, is that punching someone is the most ridiculous way to evangelize, and now he’s supposedly known for being the kindest saint of all. I think the dichotomy is hilarious.

  • david

    if you have to punch them, then your argument may not actually be more tna a personal opinion, and it’s YOU who have the problem.

  • I believe the correct way to adress a Bishop is, “your grace.”

    • Chuck

      that’s for archbishop. A Bishop is ‘excellency’

      • Ronk

        Only in the USA. In other English-speaking countries, a bishop is addressed as “my lord”.

  • Neo

    Violent catholics scare me on a number of levels. One is well served in reading text like “Martyrs Mirror” to know why…

  • Ron

    This puts a new meaning to “holiday punch”!

  • James

    Jesus Christ and The Blessed Virgin Mary loved the punch because they personally rewarded St. Nicholas for it, didn’t reprove him for anything about it and even made him a Saint.

    Due to that people who don’t like the punch of St. Nicholas blaspheme against The Lord, His Mother and St. Nicholas.

  • Christi

    James, Didn’t Mary admonish him for it? She returned his crook, yes, but only after he told her he was sorry, and that he did it out of love for her son.

  • James

    “CHRISTI”: there is nowhere in the above text that St. Nicholas had said he was sorry, it’s a falsity you have made up or picked up;

    also, “if one is angry in accordance with right reason, one’s anger is deserving of praise.” and “directed against vice and in accordance with reason, this anger is good, and is called “zealous anger.”” (Summa Theol., II-II, 158, 1);

    to claim that anyone can love God through mortal sin (St. Nicholas certainly wasn’t jailed because the emperor and everybody else thought it was venial sin) is nothing else but blasphemy;

    therefore, all who think that St. Nicholas sinned when he punched heretic and blasphemer Arius in the face do blaspheme, knowingly or unknowingly, and unlike St. Nicholas ought to repent.

  • James

    I’m sorry, the claim’s not only a blasphemy but is also a heresy.

  • Can anyone provide the historical documents that backup this story ? The Canterbury Tales are not very reliable for an event that happened nearly a 1000 years previously. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it is apocryphal. Steven Bigham, stephane_bigham@yahoo.ca.

  • della

    Missing the point between Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas? Seems like the world wants to keep them as one and they are not. Saint Nicholas is a saint and santa claus is a derivative of someone’s imagination that has become above the true identity of St. Nicholas. The term santa is in definition from the Spanish translation saint for woman. St. Nicholas was not a woman and he is not the giver of gifts. God is the giver of all gifts. The gifts of the Holy Spirit which enlightens all minds and hearts to understand the greatest gift of all…Love (Agapa). While the world is intent on keeping the flame of “lies” going about the meaning of gift giving than we continue to be overshadowed by the lies of satan. Jesus came to extinguish these lies by giving us Himself. He said, “follow me” and we continue to follow the lies of the world. Listening to a Catholic station in which a mother said, “my child came home and said that the children told him that santa isn’t real”, the radio commentary listened as the woman explained…”I told my child it was okay because it is out of fun and so we must not tell his brother; so that he can enjoy the surprises from santa”. What joy and what surprises when we continue to flame the lies of satan. santa and satan aren’t they the same? lies, lies, lies and we are to cowardly to admit this? Keep Jesus in Christmas but dare we extinguish what does not belong? Only we as individuals can make this choice and distinction given us this through the gift of the Holy Spirit to speak “truth” as St. Nicholas did. Let us be brave and identify St. Nicholas with his great courage to speak truth and not be cowards to sugar coat a “lie” Merry Christmas and as we proclaim our faith in the Nicene creed part of St. Nicholas’s courageous move to punch a “liar” for speaking falsely may we be courageous enough to proclaim truth as truth is to be proclaimed; In the Name of Our Lord Jesus for He is “truth”.