The real story of Santa starts in Patara.


Let’s face it, Turkey doesn’t really do Christmas in the same way we do at home. Apart from a couple of local Christmas fairs, a few restaurants with snow spray on the windows, the garden centre selling Xmas trees and the ex-pats getting excited and buying all the tinsel in town, Fethiye is decidedly lacking the festive feel. A shame really. Few realise the connection the area plays in the modern Christmas story. Most are happy associating Santa as the bearded man in his bright red suit living with his hardworking team of elves and reindeer. What other explanation could there possibly be? Of course he was born in his magical pad somewhere in the North Pole. We all know that, although rather porky, he fits down the chimneys of home’s all over the world on Christmas Eve and leaves pressies for good little boys and girls. Few give thought as to where the story of Santa Claus, or St Nicholas, stems from. If they did they would learn the fascinating history of a boy called Nicholas born just 40 minutes drive from Fethiye, in beautiful Patara.

A kind, loving boy called Nicholas

Oceanwide Properties
Russian icon depicting St Nicholas with scenes from his life. Late 15th century or early 16th century. Via Wikipedia from the National Museum, Stockholm.

Take a trip back to the 3rd Century, circa 280AD. This was a time when much of this area of South West Turkey was inhabited by Greeks. A boy was born to wealthy parents and raised as a devout Christian in Patara, Lycia. The boys name was Nicholas. He was little more than a child when his parents died during an epidemic leaving all their worldly goods and fortune to their son. Following his Christian teachings, he obeyed his beliefs and set about giving all he owned and inherited to those less fortunate. Nicholas wanted his generosity to be a secret. It has been said that he used to climb on the roofs of needy local homes and toss coins down the chimneys – the basis behind Santa Claus and his passion for rooftops! Nicholas gave to the poor, the hungry, the sick and the injured. He gave hope to many that were struggling and put smiles on the faces of kids and their families during tough times. It is said that one evening he was caught by a home owner who thanked him and told the town. From that moment on his actions were public. This did not go unnoticed by the church. Whilst Nicholas was still a young man, he was made the Bishop of Myra, now the modern town we know as Demre.

Bishop Nicholas was well loved in Myra. There are many stories of his good will actions. He is said to have saved three daughters from servitude by secretly creeping into the home of their father and leaving money for their dowries so they could marry and escape a poor life as servants.  Nicholas helped a number of men wrongly sentenced to death for crimes they didn’t commit – these are just two examples of his actions according to the website .

Saint Nicholas – the protector of sailors and children.

Soon after his death on December 6th 343AD, stories of his good will spread wide and far. Bishop Nicholas became known as the gift giver and the protector of sailors and children. A memorial was erected in Myra. But it wasn’t until years later that he was given the holiest of titles, Saint Nicholas. He was a popular Saint in Europe and Holland in particular where many Dutch still celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6th each year. He became known there by a nickname, Sinter Klaas. It was the Dutch that first introduced the story of St. Nicholas to the US in the 1700’s. From there, people added to the tales and he gradually became linked with the Christmas holidays and became the modern Santa Claus we all know and love today.

The original grave of St. Nicholas found on Gemile Island near Kayakoy.

Oceanwide Properties
Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy via Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia, in 1993 archaeologists discovered a grave on the island of Gemile (St. Nicholas Island) just off Gemiler Bay past Kayakoy. It is believed to be the original tomb of St Nicholas. Soon after, the Turkish Government started requesting that the remains of St. Nicholas be returned from Italy as they believed the Saint would have wanted to be buried in his episcopal town in Turkey. They claimed that his remains were illegally removed and should be returned. As far as we are aware, the remains are still at the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy.

Well there you have it – the real Santa Claus was a local boy from Patara. What a wonderful Christmas story. Oceanwide Properties hope this has put a little extra Xmas sparkle in your day.

To receive our posts as they are published, please enter your details in the box on the right. To view our property portfolio please see Oceanwide Properties website.


Join The Discussion

Compare listings