Santa Claus is Turkish?

Kids, Santa Claus is dead. These are his bones. (Relics of St. Nicolas in Antalya Archaeological Museum)

Icon of St. Nicolas (Antalya Archaeological Museum)

The legend of Santa Claus is based on a man named Nicolas who is buried in Demre, Turkey. He lived and worked c. 300 A.D. in Patara and Myra (old Demre), towns in present-day Antalya province of Turkey (about a two hour bus drive from Alanya, where I spent four months). During his early life, Nicolas secretly helped and gave gifts to those in need, sometimes placing alms in their shoes or stockings by the door or dropping sacks of gold down chimneys. Eventually he gained his religious education and became the bishop of Myra, at the time a Roman city, before dying c. 343 and later being canonized by the Orthodox Church for the various miraculous deeds he was said to have done.

After Saint Nicolas died, his priests buried him in an elaborate marble sarcophagus. The Saint Nicholas church was built over this sarcophagus, and the church still stands in modern-day Demre (the Turkish name of ancient Myra). It is one of the oldest churches in Turkey, dating from the fifth century. After suffering earthquakes and raids of invading Arab armies, the church was renovated during Byzantine times. Today worshipers hold a service there every year on December 6, the feast of Saint Nicolas. In Demre there is also a bronze statue depicting a more typical image of St. Nick with a sack over his shoulder and children at his feet (although decidedly not the modern fat and jolly Coca-Cola Santa Claus).

Happy holidays, everyone!

PS. I know that Santa Claus is not Turkish just because he lived in what is today Turkey. I just wanted to get your attention.

Some sources: here and here


One thought on “Santa Claus is Turkish?

  1. UM January 10, 2011 / 5:42 am

    Merry Christmas


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