Although the figure of Santa Claus seems to be well known, a priori not at all related to Alicante, the truth is that it has a long history that has undergone many changes over time. This is just one theory of its origin. It leads to the Netherlands, where there are firm believers in the impossible relation that has with Alicante. Santa Claus does not arrive from the North Pole, but from Alicante.
The first Santa Claus was actually named St. Nicholas of Bari. He was a bishop who lived during the 3rd and 4th centuries in Mira, a Roman city in modern-day Turkey. His remains rest in Bari, Italy, and are venerated by many countries and faithful. Many miracles are attributed to St. Nicholas, among them the resurrection of three young men who had just been murdered. He is, for this and other facts, patron saint of children.
Considered a rebellious defender of Christianity at a time when it was a crime to be one, St. Nicholas of Bari even spent time in prison. He traveled preaching the word of God and apparently had a special predilection for children, whom he tried to protect and help. During part of the Middle Ages, his figure became popular and he began to be spoken of as a man willing to give gifts to young people who behaved well. Sure it is already ringing a bell.
With the arrival of the Protestant trend, however, some problems were found with his figure. That role of protector and entertainer had to be transferred to the Child Jesus, so the date of his celebration was changed: from December 6, the day St. Nicholas died, to the 25th of the same month. The Child Jesus, in any case, would be accompanied by someone to help him with this task, just a secondary. But in places like the Netherlands they refused to give up this figure and its celebration. They were so determined to preserve it that they exported it to America, where Washington Irving, among other writers, made it more entertaining and updated it. From the Middle Ages it passed to the 19th century and from America, renovated, to the world. This is the history of Santa Claus, although very brief.
Okay, but what about Alicante? Tradition has it that among the places that St. Nicholas visited to preach the word of God is the beautiful Alicante. So much so that, in fact, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Alicante. It is celebrated every year, by the way, on December 6, although in the Spanish geography it has been overshadowed by the Constitution Day.
It seems that St. Nicholas did have a relationship with Alicante and this was taken note of in the Netherlands, where they began to believe that Santa Claus’ gifts did not pass through the maritime customs of the North Pole but through Spanish customs. Dutch legend has it that every night of December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day, this good man left the port of Alicante with a ship full of tangerines and oranges from the Alicante orchard, as well as cookies and toys for children. Today it is one of the most popular festivals in the Netherlands. It is known as Sinterklaas, the feast of St. Nicholas. Every year he arrives at a port in the country and then the feast begins.
As you can see, it is a back-and-forth of dates, names and places in a story that can be summarized as follows. Santa Claus, as this figure is known in Spain, is a modern figure that was born from the ancient Saint Nicholas, a bishop of the fourth century who passed through Alicante, from where he left loaded with gifts to the Netherlands. That’s what the Dutch believed, at least.
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