The story of the real Santa Claus

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

FIRST the good news: who­ever told you that Santa Claus was an im­pos­tor with a fake beard col­lect­ing a Christ­mas cheque at the mall or a lie cooked up by your par­ents to trick you into five measly min­utes of quiet was mis­in­formed.

The bad news: Santa Claus is def­i­nitely dead. Ar­chae­ol­o­gists in south­ern Turkey say they have dis­cov­ered the tomb of the orig­i­nal Santa Claus, also known as St Ni­cholas, be­neath his name­sake church near the Mediter­ranean Sea.

Saint Ni­cholas of Myra (now Demre) was known for his anonymous gift-giv­ing and gen­eros­ity.

Peo­ple be­lieved he’d put coins in the shoes of any­one who left them out for him on his feast day, De­cem­ber 6.

He’s also a pa­tron saint of sailors and was, of course, es­pe­cially fond of chil­dren.It wasn’t un­til the 16th cen­tury that St. Ni­cholas be­gan to take on his mod­ern, candy- cane hued form in im­ages and imag­i­na­tions. In Europe, he be­came known as Fa­ther Christ­mas. He mi­grated to the Amer­i­cas with the Dutch, who called him “Sin­terk­lass” and gath­ered every year on the an­niver­sary of his death. He started mak­ing ap­pear­ances in stores in the 1840s, ac­cord­ing to His­

The writer Cle­ment Clarke ce­mented the Amer­i­can im­age of Santa Claus with his poem

, which Visit from St. Ni­cholas be­gins with the words “’Twas the night be­fore Christ­mas”.

There is an an­nual ar­gu­ment about whether it’s okay to por­tray Santa as only white. Ac­cord­ing to the Tele­graph, St. Ni­cholas died in A.D. 343 and was in­terred at St. Ni­cholas church in Demre,

Aon the Mediter­ranean coast of Turkey.

In 1087, ap­par­ently, mer­chants dug up his bones and smug­gled them to the Ital­ian city of Bari, the Tele­graph re­ported.But ar­chae­ol­o­gists say pil­grims to the Basil­ica di San Ni­cola are pray­ing to the wrong guy. The bones be­long to an­other lo­cal pri­est, not one of the most fa­mous saints, the Tele­graph re­ported.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists con­duct­ing re­cent sur­veys at the church in Demre found gaps be­neath it. The shrine, they say, is un­derneath the church and un­touched. “We be­lieve this shrine has not been dam­aged at all, but it is quite dif­fi­cult to get to it as there are mo­saics on the floor,” Cemil Karabayram, the head of An­talya’s Mon­u­ment Au­thor­ity, told the Turk­ish Hur­riyet Daily News.

Karabayram said he’s con­fi­dent that ar­chae­ol­o­gists can reach the tomb. – Wash­ing­ton Post


One of the world’s Santa im­per­son­ators.

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