IT’S a day every parent dreads: your child asks whether Santa Claus is real and you have to look them in the eye and admit that he’s made-up.
But that’s not strictly true – Father Christmas was a real person, although your kids may not feel any better about things when you tell them that Santa has been dead for centuries.
The real-life Saint Nicholas was just as impressive as the modern Santa, if legend about the famous figure is to be believed.
Born in the year 270 and believed to have died in 343, Nicholas was a Greek bishop who was recognised as a Saint because of his many miracles.
Sure, the Santa we all know can visit every house in the world over a 24-hour period, but the real deal is credited with some seriously magical party tricks as well.
Supposedly, the saint earned the nickname Nicholas the Wonderworker for his legendary powers, which included raising the dead and creating food from thin air.
But one of the most famous stories associated with Saint Nick is more likely to be true – and forms the basis for Christmas as we know it.
Legend has it that kindly Nicholas came across a poor man who couldn’t afford a dowry for his daughters.
Without this payment to their would-be husbands, the daughters wouldn’t be able to get married – and would probably end up as prostitutes.
So humble Nick anonymously flung three sacks of money through the window into the family home overnight, saving the father the humiliation of asking for charity in public.
In another version of the story, Saint Nicholas dropped a coin purse down the chimney, on a night when one of the daughters had just washed her stockings.
The gift ended up landing in a stocking, which was hanging over the fire to dry, giving birth to the Christmas tradition of putting out stockings for Santa.
As this story was re-told over time, and charitable Saint Nick became folklore, it also became traditional for Father Christmas to drop presents down the chimney.
However, there’s some disagreement regarding what happened to the festive icon after his death.
It was previously believed that Italian merchants may have smuggled the late saint’s remains to Italy.
But now, archaeologists think they may have uncovered a tomb where the jolly bearded bloke was laid to rest – underneath the church of St Nicholas in Antalya, Turkey.
This fits with the historical description of the jolly fella, who allegedly lived in what is now known as the Demre region of Turkey.
Cemil Karabayram, head of Antalya’s Monument Authority, say researchers have found Santa’s shrine deep beneath the place of worship, hidden behind a heavy mosaic.
They believe that Santa’s tomb may never have been touched, and are optimistic about getting into Father Christmas’s grave.
Probably best not to tell the kids about that one…
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