Make no bones about it, Turkey wants Italy to return St. Nicholas’s ... bones.
The BBC reports, “The third century saint on whom Santa Claus was modeled was buried in the modern-day town of Demre in Turkey. But in the Middle Ages his bones were taken by Italian sailors and re-interred in the port of Bari. The Turkish government said it was considering making a request to Rome for the return of the saint's remains.”
You’re not likely to find Christmas widely celebrated in Muslim Turkey, but the famous St. Nicholas surely is in his town of birth. He was born in the Greek city of Myra and then went on to become the local bishop.
The BBC story says that he built a reputation for performing miracles and secretly giving gold to the needy — on one occasion being forced down a chimney to leave his donation.
After his death, Nicholas was canonized as Saint Nicholas and was buried in his hometown of Myra. But when Arab forces occupied Myra in the 11th century, his bones were excavated and brought back to the Italian port of Bari, where they are interred to this day.
Why does Turkey so badly want the bones of Santa Claus returned? Professor Nevzat Cevik, head of archaeological research in Demre, says Saint Nicholas made it clear during his life that he wanted to be buried in his hometown.
With or without the bones of their favorite saint, Demre isn’t shy about cashing in on their most favorite native … whether the modern figure of Santa Claus be a perversion of him or not.