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December 23, 2016

Check out the real St. Nick: 4th century bishop, philanthropist, pol, crowdpleaser.

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Happy Holidays from What About Paris? Our best wishes for you and yours--and for whatever celebrations or rites you find time for this week. A word about the real Santa, however, is in order, and we are happy to report that the real Santa is not a misty pagan or Druid hangover, as is so often the case with Christmas lore. He is based on a real and really admirable guy. The Bishop of Myra--or Santa Claus to most of the world--lived around 270-345 AD in what is now the Lycian region of Turkey. Both of Nicholas's parents died during an outbreak of the plague, leaving him a great sum of money. This Byzantine trust-fund baby entered the clergy, and became popular for his kindness, generosity, willingness to take on Rome on behalf of Myra, the town he served, and many instances of anonymous and secret gift-giving that his fortune made possible. After he died, the area around Myra became a major pilgrimage center dotted with new churches, including a church named after Nicholas, which is still popular with visitors to this region of Turkey. Anonymous giving, by the way, is the best kind. I like to believe that the life of St. Nicholas was a major inspiration for Magnificent Obsession, the acclaimed 1929 novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, which twice was made into a movie. One theme of Douglas's book is the importance of giving, and other acts of kindness, without wanting or expecting any type of private or public recognition.

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Fresco of St. Nicholas in the Church of St. Nicholas in Demre, Turkey

Posted by JD Hull at December 23, 2016 03:58 PM

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