Where Did the Real Santa Claus Live? It’s Nowhere Near the North Pole!

Where Did the Real Santa Claus Live? It’s Nowhere Near the North Pole!

Yes, Santa Claus truly did exist!

The fanciful story of a jolly rotund man in red giving presents during Christmas is based after German and Dutch traditions of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra-Lykia, a formerly Greek region of modern-day Turkey. Saint Nicholas was a monk born in the late 3rd century AD to prosperous sea-faring merchants who gave up his worldly treasure in search of a heavenly one. Shortly before the Emperor Constantine declared that Christians could freely practice their faith in the Roman Empire, Saint Nicholas went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, staying in Jerusalem and a hillside near Bethlehem that overlooked the grotto of the birthplace of Jesus. It is here that a monastery would be built around the cave that Saint Nicholas stayed in during his time in the Holy Land, and here that the town of Beit Jala would be founded. In opposition to the legend, Beit Jala was the home of Saint Nicholas in the Holy Land.

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.

Read More: Celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem in the Holy Land

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! 

Don't forget to use our Christmas coupon (CHRISTMAS15) to go 15% OFF on all of our products: bethlehemhandicrafts.com 

Bethlehem Handicrafts wishes you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with health, joy, and happiness!

Made by Christian Hands. Loved by Christian Hearts.

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