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The Netherlands: Santa's secret past: Who is the real Saint Nicholas? And why do we celebrate Christmas? - by Tom Rawle

Saint Nicholas is said to have created miracles across Turkey
The big guy in the North Pole has been the traditional Christmas gift-giver for hundreds of years now.

But his dark past is a fairly untouched subject. Look away now kids.

The well-known bearded ball of joy was based on Saint Nicholas, a 4th century bishop based in Turkey.

Saint Nick was known for giving secret presents and pulling off a handful of miracles according to the history books.

Yet the real festive folk hero is now also widely revered as being the patron saint of prostitutes.

According to the story, Nicholas saved three women from becoming hookers after their father could not afford dowries for them to wed.

At the time in Turkey – then known as Asia Minor, unmarriable women would be forced into prostitution.

Luckily old Nick had a plan.

On the night before the eldest daughter came of age, he anonymously offered up a purse of gold coins to the family.

One year on, he repeated the same gesture for the middle daughter.

And finally in the third year, he dropped a purse down the chimney for the third daughter (hence the modern day fable).

The wonderworker is said to have continued his good will to help maintain the purity of women and slow down the growth of prostitution.

Gerry Bowler, historian and author of World Encyclopedia of Christmas, told Daily Star Online exclusively that Saint Nicholas is a “semi-mythical saint”, yet was renowned around the globe.

He said: “So many stories were told about his wonder-working powers — he could fly, he could be in two places at once, he could raise the dead to life — that he was the most popular saint in heaven (outside of the Virgin Mary).”

In another story Saint Nick is said to have brought back to life three children murdered by an evil butcher.

In translated script from Symeon the Metaphrast, a philosopher in 900AD, he wrote: “Now after he had long lived in this manner, renowned for his virtuous conduct, he asperged the metropolis of Myra with sweet and lovely unction distilled from the blossoms of divine Grace.

"When he came to the very advance age, full of days both heavenly and earthly, he need must comply with the common law of nature, as is man's lot.

Dr Bowler said many areas of the Catholic Church still allow for the teachings of Saint Nicholas, despite some no longer trusting the legend.

In his book, World Encyclopedia of Christmas, he writes: “After his death Nicholas became a well-loved saint, being named the patron, among other things, of Russia, Greece, Vikings, choirboys, thieves, perfumers, barrel makers, unmarried women and sailors.”

He adds: “By the sixteenth century German children hung out their stockings for him to drop presents in just as he had dropped bags of gold to the poor man’s daughters.

“At the same time in England children were told that he came in through the window.”

From this, the idea of Santa Claus was born”

He writes: “Among Protestant countries only the Netherlands maintained its devotion to Nicholas, known there as Sinterklaas.

“This figure of Sinterklaas inspired early nineteenth-century Americans in New York City to develop a new Gift-Bringer, Santa Claus.

“It is Santa Claus who is exported back to Europe to provide the model for Gift-Bringers such as Father Christmas.”

So the good news is Santa Claus is (based on) a real person.

The bad news, he meddled a bit too much with prostitutes

From: Santa's secret past: Who is the real Saint Nicholas? And why do we celebrate Christmas? | Daily Star

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