St Nicholas Day

2nd December 2011 at 00:00
6 December

There was no Twitter, Facebook or other social-networking sites. So how did St Nicholas, a Greek-born saint, become a worldwide phenomenon who morphed into the jolly red-and-white-clad figure we all know as Father Christmas?

THE FACTS

Also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker, St Nicholas, from Myra (now Demre in Lycia in modern day Turkey), was a 4th-century saint whose wealthy parents died when he was young. Raised by an uncle, Nicholas became known as a secret gift-giver. He is also the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves and children.

THE LEGENDS

In the first legend, a malicious butcher lured three children into his house at a time of famine, slaughtered them and planned to sell them as ham. St Nicholas resurrected the three little boys from the barrel with his prayers. Then he helped a poor man with three daughters - and no money for dowries - by throwing purses of gold down a chimney, one for each daughter. See RogerHurn's resource.

DOES HE REST IN PEACE?

Not exactly. He was originally buried in Demre where, in 2005, the mayor had his statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Father Christmas figure to encourage tourists. But in 1087, his relics were moved to Bari in southern Italy where they remain. However, one local legend insists some relics were moved to Gottingen in Germany, while another claims that most were taken to Venice. Learn about German celebrations in a resource from Frenchgerman.

WHERE DOES FATHER CHRISTMAS LIVE NOW?

Children used to be told that Father Christmas lived at the North Pole. But, as it became apparent that grazing reindeer would not be able to survive there, newspapers began to claim that his home was Lapland. In 1927, Children's Hour on Finnish public radio "officially" revealed that he lived in Korvatunturi, Lapland. Use a "From Santa" letter uploaded by Emmalou1989 with children who have written to him.

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