st-nicholas-of-myraYou might know that the historical St. Nick was a generous person who loved children, but you might not have heard the tale about him saving little girls from being sold into sexual slavery.

The legend goes that St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra in the 4th c, found out that a destitute father was going to sell his three daughters into prostitution because he didn’t have enough for dowries to get them married off. In an act of compassion, Nicholas threw sacks of coins into their window, which landed in shoes. It was enough gold to prevent the heinous inevitability of slavery.

I have no idea if any of this is historically accurate. What is true is that slavery existed then and exists today, with an estimated 27 million slaves in the world.

Elements from this story have evolved into traditions, which ironically benefit slavery through rampant consumerism. Instead of throwing gifts through the window into shoes, Santa climbs in through the chimney and puts them into stockings. Even the chocolate gold coins that are given are thought to be connected to the story. Chocolate is one of the biggest ways that we in the U.S. contribute to slavery.

Yesterday, Dec. 6 was the day the Feast of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, was celebrated. What if the story would have led to acts of compassion and justice during the Christmas season instead of the Santa Claus tradition?

Here are some ways to change the game

Read more: Bargains Galore! But Who Pays the Price?

Be a socially conscious consumer:

Fair Trade Christmas

Become an abolitionist:

The Advent Conspiracy (HBC 35)

Get this book: Everyday Justice by Julie Clawson (HBC 67)