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Things You Didn't Know About Santa

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published December 25th 2013
St Nick Revealed
santa claus, father christmas

Father Christmas brings joy to millions of children around the world. His name brings excitement at the prospect of presents, and the very idea of a big fat bloke squeezing down the chimney can't fail to put a smile on anyone's face. But how much do you know about the real Father Christmas? Here are some interesting facts you might not have heard about before.

1. Most people know that Father Christmas is based off a real man, called St. Nicholas, but what you might not realise is that we actually have his skeleton. His remains are buried in a crypt in the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy. During the 1950s, these bones were temporarily removed for while the crypt was being repaired, and scientists made use of the opportunity by taking detailed x-rays.

Modern day technology allowed for a 3D model of his skull to be created, so that we can see what he might actually have looked like. St. Nicholas is similar in bulk to our idealised image of Father Christmas, but here he has been given a Mediterranean skin tone.

2. There is more than just one version of Father Christmas. The first is the fourth century Greek described above. According to the St. Nicholas Centre, he followed the teachings of Jesus, who said to 'sell what you own and give the money to the poor'. Legend has it the St. Nicholas used to throw coins through people's windows.

The skull they found had a broken nose, which some theorise he received when when imprisoned and tortured during the Christian persecutions.

The second version was Russian man who carved figures out of firewood, and left them at people's doors for children.

santa claus, harper's weekly, arthur nast
Illustration by Arthur Nast, Wikipedia

3. It is a popular myth that the Coca-Cola company invented the modern day Father Christmas with the red suit. It is true that they did much to endorse this figure in our minds, but it was actually the by American illustrator, Thomas Nast, who first drew him in this way in Harper's Weekly journal.

4. St. Nicholas was not only the patron saint of children, but also the patron saint of prostitutes. He was a bishop, and gave money to the parents of young girls in order to stop them entering prostitution.

5. Father Christmas does not in fact give naught children lumps of coal. He has an alter ego called Father Krampus, from German folklore, who would visit bad children. He would not give them coal either, but instead, pull their hair, whip them, or lead them off the edge of cliffs.
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