In the Netherlands the birthday of Saint Nicholas, December 5, is a big celebration, especially for children. Each year he arrives with his steam ship from Spain. But why Spain? He is a copy-cat of the bishop of Myra, whose remains – according to many people – are buried in the Saint Nicholas Basilica in Bari, Italy. In his home town Demre, in modern day Turkey, a crypt with his remains has never been found. It is said that, around 1087, some 700 years after his death, Italian merchants took his bones to their homeland.
That is the story. A story that never ends: just look at Saint Nicholas’ knight, the black Piet, who so irritates many coloured immigrants in the Netherlands with his dark skin that he will soon change colour.
Last month under the church in Demre a grave was discovered and now archaeologists think, because it looks undisturbed, the bones of Nicholas of Myra must be in that crypt. Did the Italian merchants fool everybody? We cannot be sure yet, because they have only detected the grave with electronics. To really touch it an antique mosaic floor must first be lifted, which will take some time. Of course this might just be a publicity stunt to attract some tourists to Turkey. Although I do not know anybody who has ever visited Saint Nicholas in Bari, nor in Spain where his address is unknown. We all know that Santa Claus lives somewhere in Lapland, close to the Arctic. Here is is address in case you didn’t know:
Santa Claus Main Post Office
FI-96930 Arctic Circle
Why so far in the cold? Santa Claus should live in Turkey, not far from the grave of Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra, or even better, in the United States, this way he has to travel less. Because Santa Claus is just the American version of the Dutch SinterKlaas, who only had time for the American children at the end of December. Santa Claus is a copy-cat of a copy-cat.
In Greece neither Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus have anything to say, even that Mr. Christmas is trying hard to gain some influence. In Greece it is the bishop of Myra who gets honoured on his namesday on December 6: Agios Nikolaos. However, no Greek will ever dare to dress like this saint and visit parties. In most cultures the bishop of Myra is known to be a protector of children. The Greeks chose another story from his miraculous life: one day he rescued a bunch of sailors from a heavy storm and that is why he became the patron saint of the seafarers. He is needed very badly these days. The small boats keep on coming from Turkey and the winter with its nasty weather has just arrived. Refugees even have more than one patron saint, like Saint Alban and Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, although they are a bit obscure.
Saint Cargo is the latest patron saint for refugees. Even though he is created by the German art duo Various & Gould and he has not yet visited the Pope to get canonized, but with his present deeds he might gain popularity with a greater public.
I do not know if Lampedusa claims Saint Cargo’s grave. If not, we should do that on Lesvos. Saint Nicholas could help to remove his remains in his steam ship, that may refresh Saint Nicholas’ dusty CV. The crypt will be placed in Camp Moria, because Camp Moria urgently needs a saint!