Where Did the Real Santa Claus Live? It’s Nowhere Near the North Pole!
Yes, Santa Claus truly did exist!
The Home of Saint Nicholas
The cities of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala comprise what some refer to as “The Christian Belt” of the Holy Land; three adjacent cities where a large percentage of the Christians of the Holy Land reside. All of us know of the town of Bethlehem, and everyone should know of the town of Beit Sahour, where the angels told the shepherds of the birth of Jesus, but how many people have heard of the town of Beit Jala?
If you have been to Bethlehem, you may well have passed through Beit Jala on your way to or from the Church of the Nativity, and have at least seen it from a distance. Sometimes described as the Tuscany of the Holy Land, it is built into a hillside to the west of Bethlehem and south of Jerusalem. As one of the largest Christian communities in the Holy Land, Beit Jala has many notations in the history of the Holy Land. It is said that the Holy Family filled their water skins in the valley of the Bir Ona in the valley beneath the town, where a small shrine still exists. The stone columns of the Church of the Nativity were carved out of the hillside of Beit Jala, and seminary of the Latin Patriarchate (the loca organizational structure of the Catholic Church), also exists in the town. The people of Beit Jala, however, are most proud of their connection to Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, better known as “Saint Nick” – or Santa Claus.
The Incredible Story of the Real-life Santa Claus
After Saint Nicholas returned to his home a few years later, he became a Bishop, which of course meant that he would wear the brightly-colored robes and ceremonial hat of a Bishop, and a staff symbolic of his office as a “Good Shepherd” of Christians. He also became known for his generous gift-giving, including a special circumstance in which he gave three bundles of gold to an impoverished widowed father to save his daughters from a life of destitution and dishonor. The amazing story of the real-life Saint Nicholas gave rise to the legendary “Saint Nick” or “Sinterklaas” of German and Dutch tradition, which in turn gave rise to the story of Santa Claus, who like a traditional Bishop, wears ceremonial red clothes and hat, holds a staff, and is a bearded, grandfatherly figure. Some even assert that the legend of Santa Claus coming down the chimney of family homes to give gifts to children began with the real story of the three bundles of gold given to the father by dropping the gift down his chimney!
Saint Nicholas Day Celebrations in Beit Jala
The people of Beit Jala celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on December 19th, with great fanfare. During a church service, people descend to the lower level of the church, where the cave of Saint Nicholas can be entered, and light candles and give oil in thanks to Saint Nicholas, or to ask for his blessing in their lives and on their families. The people of the town participate in a modest festive parade led by their Scout troops, and return home to celebrate with fish dinners, as most are in a time of fasting before Christmas. Christian people throughout the town of Beit Jala are also happy to share stories of miracles that Saint Nicholas, or “Mar Nicola” as he is locally called, have made in their lives.
So this Christmas, as the children in your family, parish or community are busy waiting for Saint Nicholas to come, remember that yes, there is a Santa Claus, and he has a special connection to the Holy Land!
Yet, Santa Claus is not the only connection people of the “The Christian Belt” have with Christmas. They have a talent that connects them even more deeply. It’s the talent of olive wood carving, and especially olive wood Christmas ornaments. You can find our enormous variety of wooden Christmas ornaments at our online shop which are displayed in a beautiful high-resolution panoramic 360° by clicking here. Cheer someone's heart this holiday season with our olive wood Christmas collection of decorative Christmas ornaments, Nativity scenes, and more!
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