The Truth About How Santa Started

Explorason is now nine years old. For nine Christmases, Santa has played a big part in the fun of the festive season and our family Christmas.

Each year, there are visits to sit on Santa’s lap, with photographs of ‘a man in a jolly red suit with rosy cheeks and a white beard’.

And each year, many parents of young children share the joy of surprise gifts for their children.

This is also added with encouragement for the child to ‘be good’ so they receive more gifts, because of how wonderfully well they have behaved.

Explorason has also believed he had to have clean ears and a clean belly button – all things that add up to a child being their very best.

But the truth is, few parents or children know how this all began, and so the story is embellished, and twisted. And next thing, the child is lied to.  I, as a parent, have never told my son a lie in regard to this.  Neither did my Christian parents.  Carefully worded answers were used by my parents I know, and by mine as well. We still talk about it to this day with delight as adults.

The western myth is that it all began at the North Pole, and Santa Claus lives there (some say with his wife Mary / Merry) along with the elves who make gifts. And of course, there is Rudolf and his team of reindeer, and a magic flying sleigh. Some parents even take children to Lapland with all the wonder of snow and fairy lights.

In the later years, parents mistakenly ‘confess’ to their children that Santa Claus was never real – which in fact is the real lie.

You see, the sad fact may be that Santa may not be alive and kicking now, but he was a real person. And the real meaning of ‘Santa’, is actually ‘Saint’ in Spanish.

And the original name of a Saint of Christmas is Saint Nicholas.

Not only that, he actually did also drop presents down chimneys !!!

But the real biography actually starts in the country of Turkey which was part of Ancient Greece, not the North Pole.

And here is the real story – so now it is time to share it with your kids, and grand-kids, so the facts are straight.

So, when we visited Pinara (you can read our blog here) we learned that the original Saint Nicholas (15 March 270 – 6 December 343 AD) came from that very ancient city.

He grew up in this very region. And this region held Christian faith for many centuries after the birth of baby Jesus – the true meaning of Christmas.

So this is ….

The Truth About How Secret Santa Started

…. He was born here – in Pinara in the region of Patara, Turkey, and lived his childhood, roaming around these very hills.


Exploramum and Explorason – we visited the birthplace of Saint Nicholas – Pinara, Patara, Turkey

As our house-sit in turkey ends (you can read that blog here) and we embark on a trip to Central Turkey, we decide to visit the town where Saint Nicholas lived.


Exploramum and Explorason – we visit Demre where Saint Nicholas lived his adult life

In his adult life after his parents died, he became the Bishop of Myra, which was a town further up the coast from Pinara.  It is now called Demre.

So we, of course, decided we needed to go explore and learn more as part of our world-schooling and head to Demre.


Exploramum and Explorason – The statue of Saint Nicholas with the children of the town

We learn that when Nicholas’s parents died, they left him a lot of money and made him a wealthy man, and he had a kind heart.

As a Christian, he believed in helping the poor, and Random Acts of Kindness – way back then.


Exploramum and Explorason – The statue of Nicholas as a saint

He wanted to help people who were poor secretly.  He wanted to do it as a hidden act of kindness, so this fit and fun Bishop actually would climb onto the roof of each of the poor people’s houses, and he would drop coins/money down the chimney.

When the word got out, the houses with no chimneys would leave a shoe outside, and this also was a lot easier than finding a coin in your pot of cooking. 

It is said that maybe one day, a citizen caught him in the act and his good nature was revealed to the town.

Have you ever wondered about the red jacket with the white fur trim? Interestingly we were in a traditional Turkish restaurant and there hung an Ottoman jacket – and guess what it looked just like – a Santa jacket!


Exploramum and Explorason – Explorason dressed in an antique Ottoman robe

After he died, he was given Sainthood by the church.


Exploramum and Explorason – Ancient paintings in the Church of Demre

Upon his death, a memorial was erected in the town of Demre.


Exploramum and Explorason – this would have been a beautiful church in its time

So here we visit the Church of Saint Nicholas in Demre.


Exploramum and Explorason – the dome roof is decorated

It is being restored, and there is no way to photograph the outside, and hard to take photos internally with flash restrictions.


Exploramum and Explorason – inside the church

Near the entrance is a carved casket.  Many pieces of paper are thrown onto the casket.  The guide says it is mainly Russians who visit, as they believe they will get their wishes granted of what they write on the paper.  A bit like a Christmas List I guess!


Exploramum and Explorason – the carved casket, where many throw their ‘wish papers’

It really does have some beautiful frescos.


Exploramum and Explorason – a beautiful church fresco

Saint Nicholas also became the patron saint of sailors but more specifically of children.

They say he would also be remembered for giving them nuts, fruit, and sweets for good behavior.


Exploramum and Explorason – Saint Nicholas was also a patron Saint for Sailors

So this is the story of the life of Saint Nicholas AKA Santa.

Please share this blog, as Christmas is about truth, and Santa really did live, and he did give good gifts to the well behaved.

And – please take the time this Christmas to give something in secret or to help the poor – it will make you feel a rich inside.

Questions and Comments

  • Do you know the history of Santa?
  • What is your greatest memory about Santa?
  • How else do you spice up christmas day for your kids?
  • Do share your comments with us below.

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3 thoughts on “The Truth About How Santa Started

  1. Just in time for the season. At least the story about climbing up the chimney is true and hanging of the shoe which eventually became socks has a history. Love this post. Thank you Exploramum. Something worthy to share!

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