Residents of the Turkish province of Antalya have held a rally to denounce the removal of a statue of St Nicholas, commonly known as Santa Claus. Local authorities replaced the statue of the saint holding a Bible with a plastic Santa Claus. The statue was a donation from Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has complained to the Turkish president.
St. Nicholas lived in the town of Demre — then known as Myra — in Antalya in the 4th Century. He is believed to have performed miracles to help poor children. The statue stood in front of St Nicholas church in Demre, which was restored with the help of Russian Tsar Alexander II in the 19th Century.
Despite being a predominantly Muslim country, Turkey is proud of its St. Nicholas connection … The Turkish authorities have not commented yet …
I’m highlighting this article because I was in Demre three years ago to cover the Santa Claus Festival for the Jordan Times. I had a great time and enjoyed the festivities that Turkey organizes every year right before Christmas.
I took the picture of the famous statue included above when I was there because I thought it looked so wonderful. Removing it out of the blue like this is a very dumb idea in my humble opinion. The statue is a major landmark for Demre, where tourism depends primarily on this Santa Claus connection, as they claim St. Nicholas was originally Turkish. Here are another two pictures I took in Demre of the St. Nick Church ceiling. Beautiful, isn’t it? All the pictures enlarge.