Did you know the figure of Father Christmas (Santa Claus) is based on St Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara, originally called Lycia (2 hrs from Dalyan where there are also the ruins of an ancient Roman city).
At the time the area was Greek but is now on the southern coast of Turkey. St Nicholas wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man.
Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. The anniversary of his death, 6th December, became a day to exchange gifts.
See photo’s attached showing the various images of him plus the island named after him (1.5 hours from Dalyan – near to Kaya Koy also known as The Ghost Village) and the other historical and beautiful surrounding areas, plus you can click on the following link for more details about him, http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=38.
WHY WE SAY PRESENTS ARE DELIVERED DOWN THE CHIMNEY!
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. Another version is that one time there wasn’t an open window and so the bags of gold were dropped down the chimney. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
A couple of years ago I sent the above to a Greek guest, Angelos, who replied:
The song we sing here is Santa (for us Santa Vasili or Basili with the same love to children like Santa Nicolas in the western culture) is coming from “Kesaria” which in Turkish is Kayseri (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kayseri) located in central Turkey. So yes according to the Greek’s he comes from Turkey as we know it nowadays, but from the Anatolia regent in the center of Turkey.
And according to wikipedia again (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil_of_Caesarea)
“in Greek tradition, his name was given to Father Christmas and he is supposed to visit children and give presents every January 1 (St Basil’s Day) — unlike other traditions where Saint Nicholas arrives either on December 6 (Saint Nicholas Day) or on Christmas Eve (December 24). It is traditional on St Basil’s Day to serve “Vasilopita”, a rich bread baked with a coin inside. It is customary on his feast day to visit the homes of friends and relatives, to sing New Year carols, and to set an extra place at the table for Saint Basil. In Greek tradition and according to historical records, St Basil, of Greek heritage, is the original “Father Christmas”, who being born into a wealthy family, gave away all his possessions to the poor and those in need, the underprivileged and children. A similar story exists for another Greek bishop, St. Nicholas of Myra.
Over the centuries the two have been merged but the Western “Santa Claus” is St. Nicholas and the Eastern “Santa Claus” is St. Basil. Interestingly, I did not know that, St. Nicholas was a Bishop too with a similar story with St Basil. I guess this mix up comes from the fathers of the Church who after the schism tried to find reasons to distinguish the two churches that took separate ways without giving up on the original traditions but needed to make them a little different so they could justify the two different approaches of the main idea :-).