The REAL Santa Claus

Saint Nicholas was a real, historical person.

But he didn’t live in some snowy Northern place like the North Pole or Scandinavia. And he probably wasn’t fair-skinned with ruddy cheeks.

He lived in the town of Myra – on the Southern Coast of Turkey – in the fourth century (it was then part of Greece). So he likely had an olive-colored, Mediterranean complexion:

Icon c 1500 St Nicholas.JPGRussian icon depicting St Nicholas with scenes from his life. Late 1400s or early 1500s. National Museum, Stockholm

And he didn’t ride a magic sleigh driven by flying reindeer, have a workshop full of elves, squeeze through chimneys with belly-defying dimensions, or maintain a naughty-or-nice list rivaling the NSA.

The real St. Nick came from a wealthy family, and his parents died in an epidemic when he was young.  Nick used his large inheritance to help the poor.

For example, poor young girls were likely to be sold into slavery because they didn’t have a dowry with which to attract a husband.  So on 3 occasions, Nicholas threw a bag of gold into a poor girl’s house through an open window … enough to provide a dowry so the girl could get married.

The bags of gold are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left in front of the fire to dry.  This led to the custom of kids hanging stockings or putting out shoes, hoping for gifts from Saint Nick.

Wikipedia notes:

He had a reputation for secret gift-giving … and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”.

My wife and I visited Nick’s church in Myra (now called Demre) on the beautiful Antalya coast of Turkey, where he served as Bishop for many years.

In addition to the bags of gold mentioned above, Wikipedia notes another basis for the Christmas stocking tradition: St. Nick put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.

Further information.

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  • Rafael Espericueta

    There is another explanation, that seems a better hypothesis:

  • Ted Wansley

    The video on the magic mushroom disproves the claim that “Santa” was a Turk not from the North. Duhh!

  • Orin


    Turkey was occupied by Greeks, who were a mixture of Macedonians and Hellenics, which were White!

    In the 4th c. there had NOT yet been the invasion of Arabs or Turks from C. Asia.

  • Demonocracy

    So how did they mix all this up with the birth of christ then? Boy this is confusing!

  • Haven Monahan

    Lycia, where Myra was located, was totally Hellenized after Alexander the Great kicked the Persians asses. So much so that their language Lycian was wiped out and replaced by Greek. The last time I looked at the artwork on Greek vases, the Greeks looked mighty white. So portraying Santa Claus as a whiteboy is historically correct.

    But no worries, maybe next year you can write an article denouncing his white privilege in being able to fly around delivering presents to assuage his white guilt. Throw a knapsack of male dominance and his cisgendered and fascist-normative aspects as well, and all will be good.

  • eddie sacrobosco

    Regarding the disputes about the origins of Santa Claus – my feeling is that, as is often true of ideas or memes that take hold as tenaciously as this one, a series of interrelated and tangentially connected origin stories became condensed and consolidated and eventually emerged as the story we know today. Happy Holidays all!

    I will add that in my opinion, the “reason for the season” is the season itself, that is the Winter Solstice.

  • desertspeaks

    hmm are you basing your PRESUMPTION of his origin on the geographic location? because as we know, nicholas isn’t a name found found anywhere in the region or identified among the indigenous people.. so it would be a safe assumption that he was NOT from the area nor olive complected!