May the blessings of Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) be always on you; Peace and Friendship inherit the World.

In the fourth century, the venerable bishop Nicholas of Myra was one of the most influential leaders in the Christian church. According to an old legend, he was born in nearby Patara, Turkiye and played a role during the theological discussion on the nature of Christ. After his death, Nicholas became the patron saint of the sailors, and seafaring nations and towns (e.g., Russia and Amsterdam). For centuries, pilgrims came to visit his his tomb, which was situated in the church of Myra, Turkiye. It was rebuilt in the sixth and eighth century. The latest restoration, at the beginning of the twentieth century, was paid by the last tzar, Nicholas II.

A medieval fresco from the basilica, showing the holy bishop.

Because the legend tells that Nicholas once gave gold to three young girls without dowry, it was not unusual to give presents on Saint Nicholas' day, 6 December. In the sixteenth century, the merchants of Amsterdam brought this custom to the New World, to their colony New Amsterdam. When this town had become English in the seventeenth century, the inhabitants of what was now called New York continued to celebrate "Sinterklaas", which gradually changed into "Santa Claus", whose festival was postponed to 25 December. As Father Christmas, Nicholas is popular all over the world.

The difference between Saint Nicholas (who is still venerated in Amsterdam and the rest of Holland) and the American Santa Claus is that the latter is a mere giver of presents, whereas the Dutch "Sinterklaas" has retained something of the old, venerable bishop, including the possibility to censure someone's behavior.

Lycian tombs at Myra, which belong to its oldest history.

The God Hermes. Detail of the decoration of the theater of Myra.

*** All photographs have been taken at Myra-Demre of Antalya/Turkiye.

With our sincere wishes,

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