24 Days of Blogging Day 17: Santa Claus is coming to town

Image resultEveryone knows that much of the Santa Claus legend is based on Fourth Century Turkish Bishop, Nicholas.  In previous years I’ve written about some of the stories and miracles attributed to the saint (including raising children who had been carved up and stored in brine from the dead), but even after he died, St. Nicholas captured the capitalist spirit of the holiday.

The bodies of holy men and women after they were deceased were carefully watched for signs of sanctity.  Some bodies were incorruptible; some bones periodically oozed blood.  The bones of St. Nicholas were claimed by the monks of Myra in Turkey to secrete a rose-scented liquid called Manna or Myrrh.  A corpse that was identified as showing signs of sanctity was extremely valuable, as such remains were seen as direct contact to the Almighty and were capable of healing the sick or performing other miracles.

Unfortunately for the monks of Myra, stories of “Nick’s Miraculous Ooze” spread throughout Europe.  In the early Eleventh Century, a group of merchants from the Italian city of Bari visited Myra, and during their visit they overcame, beat, and tied up the monks that guarded the remains of Nicholas (fa la la la la) and stole the bones and brought them back to Bari where the townspeople built a Basilica as a reliquary for the remains.  Nick put Bari on the map, as pilgrims throughout Christendom traveled to the city on the southernmost tip of Italy to view and perhaps receive a blessing from the first department store Santa.

Like the Macy’s Santa though, the bones of St. Nicholas did not appear in only one place.  The people of Venice claimed that their sailors were in Myra and had brought the relics back to Venice during the First Crusade.  Gimbels had their own Santa to draw the customers into the store (this is such a dated reference that I doubt many will get it).

Twentieth Century scientists, given very limited access to the relics in both cities, determined that the bones of Bari and the bones of Venice likely came from the same skeleton, and they assume that whichever group came second took the remaining bones.  This marks one of the few cases of honest Christmas advertising.

As always I welcome your comments.

I found this story on the Mental Floss website


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Date: Monday, 18. December 2017 3:47
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