The legend of Father Christmas, first came about from Nicholas of Myra who lived in Turkey during the 4th century. He was a philanthropist and was especially known for secretly leaving gifts for the poor. Not long after he died in 346, his extraordinary generosity was noted and he was declared a saint – Saint Nicholas. There were many stories of his generosity, which travelled far and wide, and it inspired little children to leave out stockings out in the hope that Saint Nicholas would leave gifts in them!
Even though he was buried in a cathedral in Myra, Irish historians now believe that his remains were brought to Ireland by early crusaders.
As one of the most revered saints of his time, Saint Nicolas remains were shrouded in controversy. It is believed that Italian soldiers looted the grave of St. Nicolas and brought his remains to Bari in Italy in the 11th century, where it ended up in the care of a French family called ‘de Frainets’ who later settled in Ireland in 1169. Philip Lynch, a historian from the Callan Heritage Society has researched this and believes the ‘de Frainets’ built St.Nicolas Cathedral in Kilkenny (which is still standing today!) and buried the remains here in 1200.
If you don’t believe it, then visit St. Nicolas Church at the famous Jerpoint Abbey in Killenny and you’ll see the Saint Nicolas grave slab.
Here is a poem we came across which is written by Bill Watkins:
The Bones of Santa Claus
Where lie the bones of Santa Claus
To what holy spot each pilgrim draws
Which crypt conceals his pious remains
Safe from the wild wind, snows and rains.
It’s not in Rome his body lies
Or under Egypt’s azure skies
Constantinople or Madrid
His reliquary and bones are hid.
That saint protector of the child
Whose relics pure lie undefiled
His casket safe within it’s shrine
Where the shamrocks grow and rose entwine.
Devout wayfarer, cease your search
For in Kilkenny’s ancient church
Saint Nicholas’ sepulcher is found
Enshrined in Ireland’s holy ground.
So traveler rest and pray a while
To the patron saint of orphaned child
Whose bones were brought to Ireland’s shore
Safe from the Vandal, Hun and Moor.
Here lie the bones of Santa Claus
Secure beneath these marble floors
So gentle pilgrim, hear the call
And may Saint Nicholas bless you all