Most people know that the legend of Santa Claus originates from Saint Nicholas, but it is a lesser known fact that Saint Nicholas himself was born, and lived in Turkey. In Turkish he is referred to as Noel Baba (Father Christmas). He was born to a Greek family in Patara, a former port town on the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey, and far from the North Pole. Today, it is home to one of Turkey’s most beautiful beaches and a breeding ground for endangered loggerhead turtles.
He was also known as Nikolas of Myra because of his position as the Bishop of Myra, a town located near the modern day town of Demre (near Antalya) in Turkey. St Nicholas Museum in Demre (formerly the Church of St Nicholas) attracts thousands of pilgrims every year
Saint Nicholas’ family were wealthy, and after his parents passed away, it is well documented that he used his inheritance to help those in need. He became known for his generosity, his love of children and his concern for sailors and those who worked at sea. Because of this he is a patron saint of sailors, fishermen, ships and sailing in many different religions / countries. He is also the patron saint of several cities with harbours as well as Greek and Russia.
There are numerous stories about miracles he performed, which lead to him sometimes being referred to as Nicholas the Wonderworker. He was also known for his secret gift-giving which is how modern day Santa Claus came about. According to legend, he would put coins in the shoes of the needy without them knowing it, and he was also said to have put purses filled with gold through the windows of a house of a man who he knew had no dowry to offer for his marriage-age daughters. Another version of this story is that he threw the money down the chimney because he knew that the man would be too proud to accept such a generous gift, and the purse landed in a stocking that had been left to dry out. This is most likely the origin of the modern day tradition of hanging out stockings for Santa Claus.
He died on 6 December A.D. 343, and his death is commemorated around the world on this day each year. We know that he died in Myra, and that his tomb is there, however at some stage his remains were taken to Italy. Regardless of this, St Nicholas Museum continues to be an important religious site for people from around the world.
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