DEC 19 EDITIONTrendingYuletide

Is St. Nicholas Same as Santa Claus ? -The Surprising Origin of Father Christmas

By Charles Ojugbana with agency reports

In the past, the notion had been that Santa Claus originated from somewhere in the North Pole. This assertion is supported by many factors. One, he arrives in a bob sleigh, a mode of transportation popular in the frozen Nordic regions of the world. Then he is supposed to live in an icy environment where his red and white outfit stands in sharply contrast. Finally, his appearance only during the Yuletide season is likened to the rare opportunity of coming in contact with the polar bear, an extremely uncommon occurrence.

Despite the above myths, the historical understanding is that the concept of Father Christmas actually originated in the prominently Muslim country of Turkey in the third and fourth centuries! A Greek Bishop for whom rich parents left behind so much wealth in the small city of Myra in ancient Asia Minor is said to hold the keys to the historical advent of Santa Claus….Although today, his remains occupy a small crypt within the grounds of The Basilica of St. Nicolas in the Italian city of Bari, Nicholas who was born in the Mediterranean during the Roman Empire days has greatly impacted the way the world views and celebrates Christmas. His legacy of a chubby white bearded bringer of gifts in red and white suit represents a large chunk of what makes each Yuletide memorable.

There are many fables surrounding St. Nicholas but the one about the custom of hanging up stockings to put presents stands out the most. According to tales (many of which are yet to corroborated), the kind bishop came to the rescue of a very poor man who could not afford the customary dowry for his three daughters . According to whychrismas.com “one night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house (This meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married.). The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter.

Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping in a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas. Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint”.

Since then, St. Nicholas has become not only the saint of children but also of sailors! He was to be later exiled from Myra and imprisoned by Emperor Diocletian. He is assumed to have died on 6th December around 345 AD. In 1087, tradition has it that some Italian sailors stole his bones from Turkey and kept them in the Church named after him in Bari, an Italian port city. On St. Nicholas feast day (6th December), sailors in Bari still perform a rite where his statue is taken from the Cathedral out to sea in the hope that he will bless the waters and provide them with safe voyages throughout the year.

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