Mike Aquilina

The Original North Pole

Friday November 16th 2007, 3:07 am

As we mark the days till the feast of St. Nicholas, the Turkish Daily News reports:

The Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry has allocated YTL 40,000 for restoration works in the church of St. Nicholas in Antalya’s Demre district [ancient Myra] … The urgent works include the repairing of the roof, building a path to protect the marbles at the entrance, repairing the pumps that remove the rainwater and protecting the paintings from sunlight and humidity.

Last year I raised some eyebrows when I raised the claim that old St. Nick was a brawler, who (according to one not-so-reliable chronicler) punched the heretic Arius in the nose and brought forth a profusion of blood.

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos has asked the Turkish government for permission to pray at St. Nick’s church on the feast day, Dec. 6. May it be so!

The Turkish Daily News takes great pride in having Father Christmas as a native son. Turkey’s English daily reports that, in 1955, the country issued a postage stamp to honor Santa Claus, and since 1981 international symposia have been organized on his life by the Ministry of Tourism. In Demre, “There are shops selling authentic local souvenirs, cafeterias and restaurants in the area where the remains [of the Byzantine city] are found.”