One year, as the good people of Myra were celebrating good Saint Nicholas on the eve of his feast day, a band of pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasure from the Church of Saint Nicholas—gold chalices, jeweled icons, and silver candlesticks—to take away as booty. As they were leaving town they also snatched a young boy, Basilios, to keep as a slave.
The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer. Not knowing the language, Basilios could not eavesdrop any state secrets. So, for a year Basileos waited on the king, serving his wine in a beautiful golden cup.
The year passed slowly for Basilios’ parents, who were devastated at the loss of their only child. As St. Nicholas’ feast day approached again, Basilios’ mother said, “I simply cannot join in the any festivity. For me, St. Nicholas Day has become time of sorrow. She decided to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping.
Meanwhile, far away, Basilios remembered this was the day of St. Nicholas feast. He was downcast and discouraged. The emir asked why he looked so unhappy. Basilios replied, “I’m thinking of home and the special feast day of St. Nicholas.” “You will never be there again!” declared the emir. As Basilios was filling the golden cup, he was suddenly whisked up and away. The boy was terrified, but St. Nicholas appeared to him, blessed him, and set him down in his home in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios appeared, still holding the emir’s golden cup.
Basilios and his family celebrated St. Nicholas feast day with great rejoicing and thanksgiving. The whole town offered prayers of thanksgiving to God and to the saint who had once been their bishop.
This is the oldest story that tells of Saint Nicholas’ care for children.
Complete picture book version, The Golden Cup, written and illustrated by Marylou Reifsnyder