Santa Claus has long been associated with the North Pole. But the friendly white-bearded man actually originated from what is modern day Turkey.
Nicholas was born in nearby Patara, and became a priest. He later became a bishop, and did much of his good work in the Roman town called Myra. This was set during the 4th century Lycian period when the Roman Empire ruled. Today this town is in southern Turkey and attracts thousands of tourists from all over. Some are religious, and some are just curious about the roots of this legendary man.
Legend has it that he’d drop small bags of gold coins down the chimneys of houses with poor girls who were old enough to marry, but had no dowry. The legend also says that he’d leave gold coins in the shoes of the poor who put them out for him. His good work didn’t go unnoticed though and he later became the patron saint of virgins, sailors, children and Holy Russia.
An 11th-century church in Myra, now the Santa Claus Museum (Noel Baba Müzesi), once held his earthly remains, but in 1087 most of his bones were taken by force to Bari in Italy, and the remainder taken to Venice in 1100. Then, in 2009 the Turkish government demanded the return of the relics to Demre – the home of St. Nicholas.
To find out more about Demre and Santa Claus, in 2014, the BBC shot a lovely news piece about him. There’s also a factual YouTube video from an American tourist explaining and showing the quarters of St. Nicholas.
For those of you unfamiliar with Turkey’s geography, the district of Demre is in Antalya and about a thousand kilometers from Antakya. It is located on the coastline and easier to drive or sail to. If there is interest, I may consider doing a Myra tour where we visit the St. Nicholas church and museum. This could be perfect for those in the holiday spirit looking to learn more about the life of Santa Claus next year for my Christian tour. #Turkey #Tourism #Santa #History