Happy Holidays Readers!
This is a most interesting account of the origin of Santa and Christmas. It’s from one of my preferred travel partners who helps me create fabulous customized luxury vacations in Turkey — Turkey At Its Best. Engin, my friend and contact there, also credits a Turkish sumeriologist named Dr. Muazzez Ilmiye Cig in this account.
” You may not know that Turkey and Turks have played a rather unique role in the history of Christmas Holiday celebrations: First of all, Santa Claus was from Demre (ancient Myra), on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. He was the Bishop of Patara, and a kind and giving man, who assisted poor brides-to-be by secretly placing gifts in their homes. He probably wore a toga and sandals, rather than a fur coat and hat, as he lived in a rather hot climate! His gift giving became well known in the area, and he was eventually made a saint. Today, you can visit his church in Demre and the site where he was buried. Alas, his tomb was robbed by sailors from Bari (Italy) who took his remains there; he was re-buried under a church that bears his name.
Now, something else you may not know is that Turks, whose original homeland was Central Asia, had celebrated a holiday called “Nar Tugan” in pagan times, 3000-4000 years ago. “Nar” means sun and “Tugan” means birth, so it meant the birth of the sun; interestingly enough, Noel also means “day of birth”. Ancient Turks believed in one God, creator of the world, and they called him “Tengri”. One of their demigods was Ulghen, to whom they prayed on December 22, to ask that the sun be returned to them after the longest night of the year. They had a sacred spruce tree which was believed to symbolize the center of the earth; they decorated it with ribbons and placed gifts under it. All the people in town dressed in new clothes for the occasion, wished for good fortune, and had big family feasts, just like we now have during Christmas. This symbolic “Tree of Life” can still be seen in the designs of Turkish carpets and tiles.
It seems that Ulghen of the Turks eventually became the symbol of “Santa” for Christians; you can see that the caftans, fur-trimmed hats, big belts, and high boots that the Turks wore in those days are now parts of the Santa Claus costume in our times.
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Josh Friedman is an old-fashioned travel agent offering highly personalized 24/7 service. Specialties include high-end and bespoke luxury travel for small groups and individuals. His areas of expertise include ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations & luxury hotel stays. He also plans spectacular honeymoons, anniversary and birthday celebrations and completes trips that clients have started and just can’t quite figure out how to finish.
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