Skip to comments.Turkish Town Exchanges St. Nick for Santa (Former Myra, hometown of St. Nicholas)
Posted on 03/24/2005 7:30:54 AM PST by Southside_Chicago_Republican
DEMRE, Turkey -- In the 4th century, a bishop named Nicholas was a local hero in this seaside town, living the kind of life that eventually led to sainthood. For most of the 16 centuries that followed, Saint Nicholas was known chiefly as the patron of sailors, barrel-makers, small children and Russians.
And though it's not entirely clear just when the historical Saint Nicholas began to meld into the image of the jolly man in the red suit, historians can now say precisely when the transformation was complete. On Feb. 3, the Demre City Council voted unanimously to erect a statue of Santa Claus in the town square, replacing a bronze statue of the Saint Nicholas who merely lived here.
Mayor Suleyman Topcu points with pride to Demre's official seal, which features a stylized Santa, rather than the town's 4th-century local hero.
"This is the one everyone knows," Mayor Suleyman Topcu said of the plaster-of-Paris figure put up in place of the elegant bronze. "We couldn't figure out what the other one is."
They are finding out. The demotion of the real Saint Nicholas did not go unnoticed. Offended parties include Russian Orthodox tourists who venerated the saint made the patron of their homeland by Czar Alexander II; the sculptor, also Russian, who donated the bronze statue five years ago; tour operators who pitch Demre as part of a tour of Turkey's religious history; and an assortment of bystanders who see the town's elevation of Santa over Nicholas as the ultimate commercialization of, if not Christmas, something dignified and sacred.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
this is very sad, from both a religious and an artistic standpoint.
I guess I wouldn't expect Muslim or secularized Turks to get the spiritual significance of St. Nicholas, but you'd think that they would at least have some appreciation for a significant historic figure. My Orthodox parish is named for St. Nicholas, and I think for a while at least, when he is commemorated in the liturgy, I'm going to think about those goofballs in Turkey and their plaster Santy. Surreal!
Old news and incomplete. The statue was not destroyed. It was moved to a location closer to St. Nicholas' Church, again in Demre (Myra). The plastic Santa statue was horrible so I think they got rid of it and put the original back to where it was in the first place.
December 6, 2006
The absence of the hard facts of history is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints, as the devotion to St. Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western Churches honor him, and it is claimed that, after the Blessed Virgin, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists. And yet, historically, we can pinpoint only the fact that Nicholas was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.
As with many of the saints, however, we are able to capture the relationship which Nicholas had with God through the admiration which Christians have had for himan admiration expressed in the colorful stories which have been told and retold through the centuries.
Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor mans window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saints feast. In the English-speaking countries, St. Nicholas became, by a twist of the tongue, Santa Clausfurther expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop.