Greek Archbishop from Lycia (in modern-day Turkey) and also Father Christmas.
Oh yes, Santa Claus definitely exists — at least in some form. But you may have to abandon a few preconceptions.
The much-romanticized legend is that he secretly provided dowries to keep three sisters from a life of prostitution because their father was destitute. Our Saint hit upon the scheme of anonymous gifts in the form of bags of gold which he could lob through a bedroom window on three consecutive nights.
If you like the realms of fantasy and fable, these were said to have landed in the girls’ stockings, which were hanging up to dry over the fireplace. You can see where this is leading can’t you?
That is why you mustn’t peep on Christmas Eve. It is said that the father peeped on the third night and blew the whistle on our hero.
From that day on he grew in popularity. Any miracle of any sort in the area was attributed to Nick. He restored a girl burnt to ashes back to life, stayed an executioner’s sword at the last second to save innocent victims, and best of all, biffed another bishop.
He was so venerated that after his death he became part of the Holy Relic trade. His bones were found to give off an oily goo. This was very marketable and could cure anything — and by lucky chance was sweet-scented enough to be used as a perfume.
The little Orthodox Church in Myra boosted the pilgrim tourist trade and was still reaping profits in 1087. But this caused concern to unscrupulous traders from elsewhere.
A gang of sixty-three mafia type commandos sneaked into Myra harbor, smashed their way into the shrine and stole the sacred bones. They took them off to Bari in Italy — where they still reside. Who said crime doesn’t pay?
During 1950, renovations to the crypt in the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Nick’s bones had to be moved. The Vatican took the opportunity to call in a professor to X-ray and measure the bones. St Nick, it turned out, was five foot six inches in height.
Forensic reports have given us more than the bare bones of his appearance. Nick was thickset and short with a bulldog jaw and a broken nose. Not quite the jolly ‘Ho Ho Ho’ appearance of his festive reputation. He seems more like a boxer.
He was pugnacious enough to have once been imprisoned for slapping another bishop around. The good news is that beneath this rugged exterior he really did have a heart of gold.
The bones rested in peace until in the mid-1990s, when with new technology and pinhole cameras, a forensic scientist named Francesco Introna was given the opportunity for an up-to-date check. That’s how we know about the broken nose. It was also found that some small fragments were missing — finger bones etc which had no doubt been sold off to other venues.
Sadly the tomb is below sea level and the bones are slowly deteriorating. But the ‘manna’ oil is still collected once a year (don’t ask us how) — and diluted with seawater before sale to pilgrims. Yes, the trade still continues!
But what about SANTA-CLAUS, the red suit, the flying reindeer and the chimneys? This is all to do with Finland and is sustained by another substance altogether — not oil, but hallucinatory fungi. How the connection came about is another of life’s mysteries. Consult our entry on JOULUPUKKI.
Strangely enough, our Saint was often depicted with three golden balls to symbolize his three bags of gold. Pawnbrokers were quick to latch on, using this as a symbol to publicize their unholy trade. They perhaps hoped to claim saintly patronage. If so, it worked.