Everybody knows Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, right? Well, maybe. But that doesn’t mean he’s from there.
Here’s a fun list of destinations where you might see where the real Saint Nicolas actually lived and maybe even get to meet the jolly old man.
Saint Nicolas was a 4th century Christian bishop who lived in a village called Myra in what is now modern day Turkey. Nicolas was renowned for his generosity and for giving gifts to the poor. A popular figure throughout Christendom, images of the saint across Europe usually depict him with long beard and in red canonical robes.
Today, Myra is called Demre, and celebrates its status as the “City of Santa Claus” by welcoming many Christian pilgrims and Santa loving tourists every year. Demre is home to the 4th century Byzantine Church of Saint Nicolas of Myra and to the nearby Noel Baba Müzesi (Father Christmas Museum) located in an 11th century church. It also boasts beautiful Mediterranean beaches, Roman era ruins and other ancient archaeological sites.
The remains of Saint Nicolas of Myra are in the southern Italian city of Bari, at the Basilica di San Nicola. The basilica dates to late 11th century, which is believed to be when the body of the saint was brought to the city. Early December is a popular time to visit Bari, coinciding with the saint’s feast day of 6 December.
The Basilica di San Nicola is but one of the grand cathedrals of Bari, which includes the “Russian Church” built in the 20th century for Russian pilgrims coming to Bari because of its connection to Nicolas, the patron saint of Russia.
Saint Nicolas may be the patron saint of Russia. But before Saint Nick, there was Ded Moroz.
In the Slavic traditions of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, Ded Moroz (Father Frost) delivers gifts to children on New Year’s Eve accompanied by his Snow Maiden granddaughter, Snegurochka. In striking similarity to Santa Claus, Ded Moroz is said to wear a round fur lined hat, to sport a long white beard and to get around by (horse-drawn) sleigh.
The Russian town of Veliky Ustyug is said to be the home of Ded Moroz. During certain parts of the year, especially during the lead up to New Year’s, Veliky Ustyug becomes a popular destination with visits by Ded Moroz being a key part of the festivities.
Perhaps no other county in the world today has a bigger claim on being the home of Santa Claus than the Nordic nation of Finland.
Situated north of the Arctic Circle – about as close to the North Pole as is humanly possible to live year round – the Finnish region of Lapland is famous for its reindeer herds, the spectacular northern lights in the winter, 24 hours of daylight at the height of summer, and for welcoming guests throughout the year to meet Santa Claus. Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland and locals also reckon it’s the “official hometown of Santa Claus.” Winter activities here include visits to Santa Claus Village, taking a ride in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, snowshoeing, going on a snowmobile safari, and loads more fun in the snow.
Do you know where Santa Claus lives? Tell us where you’ve found him in the comments!