Friday, December 24, 2010

My Entry for "Writer's Island" and "Manifesto"

At this Christmas time I’d like to celebrate by telling the story of the real Santa Claus, the fat guy in the red suit who lived way up there in the north somewhere.
Because the truth is – and I should shout it from the housetops, or perhaps publish it as a manifesto – he wasn’t like that at all!

Check this out: it’s very hot, the sun’s beating down; we’re in the tropics. There’s a beautiful beach and the ocean, it’s the Mediterranean, is dazzling.

This is what they call the Turkish Riviera, and the name is justified; it can hold its own with the French Riviera.

Reason I’m telling you about this place is that some years ago I was in this tropical paradise and had a chance to meet the real Santa.
Everyone knows the theory that ol’ S. Claus lived up in the Frozen North with Mama Claus and a houseful of industrious, non-union elves, not to mention a stable of reindeer, and that Santa always lived there.
Not true.

Fact is, Santa Claus was originally Saint Nicholas, who lived in the fourth century and who never saw the North Pole (and maybe never saw any snow). He was born and raised right here in the hot, sunny Turkish Riviera, though the name would not have been familiar to him. Some years ago I was there working on a tourism-promotion project for the Turkish government and I thought it would be interesting to show Santa’s real home, where he was born and raised.
As for the actual saint, Nicholas, he had been famous for his generosity, for the way he gave gifts to the needy.
Well, he should have; he was a saint. :-)
He became known throughout the Christian world.

He wound up in Holland, where they changed his appearance somewhat -- he put on weight and began wearing a bright red suit. They also took his name and sort of Dutchified it: St. Nicholas became Sinterklaas. When the Dutch lived in New Amsterdam, back in the 1600s, they celebrated Christmas with Sinterklaas and all the English folks living around them thought the old fellow was sort of cool so they adopted him for their Christmas too.
They couldn’t quite pronounce “Sinterklaas” however; the closest they could get to it was “Santa Claus.”

So somehow the old fellow had metamorphosed from a 4th-century saint from the tropics to a corpulent chap in a red suit who lived at the North Pole where it was usually pretty chilly but nevertheless he was always smiling about something.
One day I was standing on that beach, working, when an Orthodox Christian priest approached and asked if I would like to see the bones of St. Nicholas? Of course, I said.
He returned with a small case, beautifully made, lined with satin, that, he assured me, contained some of the bones of the Saint.
I was aware of the thousands of kids who go to see Santa at Christmastime and here I was getting to see the real Santa.
For a fleeting moment I thought of saying that I wanted a pony for Christmas, but I couldn’t be sure Orthodox priests had a sense of humor.
I close with a loud, raucus "Merry Christmas"! to all.


George S Batty said...

you're the first to post so I will be the first to comment.

I have heard this story before and in fact sailed my own small boat down to take a look at those bones. The old priest said "boy, you really rolled the dice sailing the high seas in that small boat. That was a real gamble."

That is the storey of how dice became known as "bones". so when you go the the table and roll "Dem Bones" you are really asking Santa for a present.

Also, that is why the dice are white and red and the table cloth is green.

Merry Christmas

Rinkly Rimes said...

What an interesting post! I'd never heard the derivation of Santa Claus and how the Dutch were mixed-up in it! Santa must find the North Pole unbearably bleak after his sultry homeland!

Linda May said...

Ha I am first here too! I am on a roll. Merry Christmas.Those English sure liked to change the view of stuff eh?

Berowne said...

Linda May: "Those English sure liked to change the view of stuff eh?"
Ah, the ancient Aussie-Pommy feud. :-)

Berowne said...

gs batty: "That is the storey of how dice became known as 'bones'."
Don't be offended, but I prefer the history provided by Google: "Dice were originally made from the ankle bones (specifically the talus or "astragalus") of hoofed animals (such as oxen)."

Unknown said...

I never heard this far back about Santa, of course he had to gain weight and grow that beard, much colder up North! Merry Christmas...

Everyday Goddess said...

Is it too late for me to ask St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, or Santa Claus for a trip to either one of those Riviera's? I'm not fussy.

Lilibeth said...

I like this version of the story ever so much better than the fat, jolly version. It would have been funny to ask for a pony, but I'm sure he would have felt hurt and not at all like chuckling.

Sr Crystal Mary said...

Really the important part of Christmas is that Jesus Christ Gods son was born.He walked the earth as a man and gave more than anyone ever has.
St Nicholas was a kind man, with a generous heart. Should that we be likened unto him and give with an open loving caring heart also. God Bless you.

Understanding Alice said...

more santa info for you - his suit was blue until coca cola got hold of him...
I liked your post, thank you

Gemma Wiseman said...

Love hearing all these tantalising versions of how Santa became Santa! And your version is beautifully narrated!

Berowne said...

R. Rimes: "What an interesting post!"
What an interesting comment. Thanks.

Berowne said...

E. Goddess: "Is it too late for me to ask St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, or Santa Claus for a trip to either one of those Riviera's?"
Aw, you just missed it. The deadline was Friday. :-)

ninotaziz said...


I enjoyed this post and I do not know why. One thing for sure, everytime I come on board here, I learn something new. Thanks Berowne.

Elizabeth said...

When we were very young (a long, long time ago), my parents celebrated St. Nicolaus Day, Dec.6, by filling a stocking, for each of us, and it had to be hung in a doorway. I was familiar with the history, but certainly enjoyed your version and the vivid pictures that accompany it. Thank you, and I think the pony request would have been appropriate, but you would probably have been given some excuse about how that wouldn't, couldn't possibly fit into a stocking.


Berowne said...

Pat transplanted to MN: "...of course he had to gain weight and grow that beard, much colder up North!"
As someone who lives in MN would know!

Lisa said...

This was a wonderful take on the topic. It was the perfect topic for the season. I hope you had a lovely Christmas.

Jae Rose said...

Lovely post Berowne - a belated 'Merry Christmas' to you! Jae

Berowne said...

Lisa: "This was a wonderful take on the topic." jaerose: "Lovely post, Berowne."
Comments like these are like Christmas presents -- thanks!

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