Legend of the Three Purses
Legends, almost always, have different wersions prevalent in different places, no doubt, because they are undocumented. But different versions tend to have a common skeletal structure that remains unchanged. The "Legend of the Three Purses" is also known as "The Dowry of the Three Virgins" and is considered to be one of Saint Nicholas' most famous charitable acts of kindness. This legend is a celebration of his generosity and love that he gave to those suffering, which is the true Spirit of Christmas.
In the town of Myra, where Saint Nicholas was the Bishop, there lived a noble man who was so poor that he could not afford food or clothing. This man had three beautiful daughters but he couldn't get them married off because, according to custom in those times, he didn't have the dowry.
Cold, hungry and very poor but also honorable, the noble man wouldn't ask others for help. Things were becoming so desperate that the man thought he would have to sell his daughters as slaves or prostitutes.
When Saint Nicholas heard about the problems of the noble man and his daughters, he decided to help them. But he didn't want to embarass them by doing it in public where it would look like charity, so he came up with a secret plan.
Late at night, Saint Nicholas went to the noble mans home and, through the window, he tossed a bag of gold inside. When the man and his daughters awoke the next morning, they discovered the bag. The noble man was so grateful because now he could marry off his oldest daughter.
The next night, again Saint Nicholas went to their home and tossed another bag of gold in through the window. Now the man was able to marry off the second daughter.
The noble man wanted to know who was this kind and very generous person that kept tossing bags of gold into his home. So on the third night, the man hid by the window and waited. When Saint Nicholas came to toss the bag of gold through the window, the noble man grabbed Saint Nicholas' cloak and begged him not to hide himself.
But Saint Nicholas, embarassed that his noble deed was discovered, told the noble man, "Please, don't tell anyone what I have done. I am only doing the work of God."
The noble man then let go of Saint Nicholas' cloak and gratefully thanked him and allowed him to leave without telling anyone about the secret generous man.
INSIGHT: The story of hanging stockings during Christmas has been a basis for this legend. It is believed that when Saint Nicholas went to drop the bag of gold for the youngest daughter, he saw the noble man hiding and waitng by the window for him. So, Saint Nicholas went to the chimney and dropped the bag inside. It so happened that the youngest daughter kept a stocking hanging in the fire place to dry and the bag fell right inside her stocking, that is where she found it the next day.
This is where we get the idea to hang stockings by the fireplace so Saint Nicholas can fill them on Christmas Eve.