I’m so fascinated by the various iterations of Christian gift-giving days, which stretch from about December 6, St. Nicholas Day in parts of Europe (it’s flexible) to January 6, Three Kings Day. Those dates, BTW, are the very earliest AND the very latest I’ll play what’s come to be known as Christmas music. Also intrigued by the guy who, at least partially, inspired Santa Claus.
From the Wikipedia:
“Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus. He was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra in Lycia, now in the Antalya Province of Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular presenting the three impoverished daughters of a pious man with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. A great gift, indeed.
He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In Europe (more precisely the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Germany) he is still portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes. In 1087, the Italian city of Bari, wanting to enter the profitable pilgrimage industry of the times, mounted an expedition to locate the tomb of the Christian Saint and procure the remains. The reliquary of St. Nicholas was desecrated by Italian sailors and the spoils, including his relics, taken to Bari, where they are kept to this day. A basilica was constructed the same year to store the loot and the area became a pilgrimage site for the devout, thus justifying the economic cost of the expedition. Saint Nicholas became claimed as a patron saint of many diverse groups, from archers and children to pawnbrokers. He is also the patron saint of both Amsterdam and Liverpool, among many others.
The Turkish Government announced that it would be formally requesting the return of St Nicholas’s bones to Turkey from the Italian government. Turkish authorities have cited the fact that St Nicolas himself wanted to be buried at his episcopal town. They also state that his remains were illegally removed from Turkey.
Is Saint Nicholas Day celebrated where you are? I vaguely recall that, when I was growing up in upstate New York State, the kids of central and eastern European ancestry had another holiday before Christmas, which made me jealous, but I did not yet have the intellectual curiosity to get the details.
Oh, and remember You’re never too old to sit on Santa