The Real Santa Claus

St Nicholas was a Greek bishop, known for his generosity. But he didn’t have a beard, and he didn’t drive a sleigh - so how did he morph into the Santa Claus the world knows and loves? The supposed date of his death - 3rd December, 343 - may have a lot to do with it…

Then there’s the miracles. In the most famous story associated with St Nick, he anonymously leaves some gold coins in the house of a poor family to give the daughters a dowry and swerve them away from sex work, which is how he became the patron saint of pawnbrokers and prostitutes. Ho Ho Ho!

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how this austere-looking bald man from Turkey merged with the European traditions of Father Christmas; consider why the spread of Protestantism curiously helped St Nick stick out from his saintly brethren; and explain why his leaky corpse has a lot to answer for…  

Further Reading:

• ‘The History of How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus’ (National Geographic, 2018):

• ‘Saint Nicholas’ (The Guardian, 2004):

• ‘The Real Saint Nick Is a Far Cry From the Santa We Know’ (NBC Nightly News, 2015):

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The Retrospectors are Olly Mann, Rebecca Messina & Arion McNicoll, with Matt Hill.

Theme Music: Pass The Peas. Announcer: Bob Ravelli. Graphic Design: Terry Saunders. Edit Producer: Ollie Peart.

Copyright: Rethink Audio / Olly Mann 2023.

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