A Turkish archaeologist is campaigning to have the bones of St. Nicholas, the model for the legend of Santa Claus, returned to the saint’s hometown in Turkey.
Saint Nicholas was the bishop of the Roman town of Myra, modern Demre in what is now Turkey, in the 4th century. He came from a rich family and was famous for giving money to the poor. People would leave their shoes out for him to put money in. This tradition is still kept in many Christmas celebrations today. In Spain it’s the Three Wise Men who bring presents, but they leave them in shoes. Another story has Saint Nicholas throwing gifts down the chimneys of poor young women so they would have enough dowry to get married.
He was buried in a local church, pictured here, but Italian sailors took his bones away when the Arabs invaded in the 11th century. Now the Turkish Ministry of Culture is considering the archaeologist’s request to put political pressure on Italy.
Do we now have a Turkish Zahi Hawass, fighting to get archaeological treasures returned to their native land? It’s too early to tell, but I bet that archaeologist got some nice presents in his shoes this year.