Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In Search Of Santa Claus

From History Television:
The amazing transformation of a holy man from Turkey into the world-wide symbol of Christmas cheer.

He's one of the most widely recognized figures in the world; but what are the origins of St. Nicholas, and how did he become Santa Claus? With criminological acumen, this one-hour documentary sorts the myths from the facts to present the true story of the first multi-national saint, revered by the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches alike.

Two historical figures staked a claim to be the original Nicholas: the fourth-century miracle worker, Bishop Nicholas of Myra (in today's Turkey), and the sixth-century Abbot Nicholas of nearby Sion. The bishop's bones, however, were in Myra, which makes a clear case for the miracle worker.

Loved for his deeds and miracles, Nicholas came to be portrayed on icons. When one was brought to Western Europe in 972 by a Byzantine princess, Nicholas suddenly became a European celebrity – a Nicholas icon was a must-have in the best households. And don’t we still call celebrities "icons" today?

In 1187, businessmen from Bari in Italy sailed to Myra and stole the saint's bones, convinced that they would bring riches to any city where they lay. They were right. Bari became the centre of Nicholas veneration. Soon there were Nicholas groups doing good deeds across Europe, Nicholas plays in medieval towns, and before long the saintly figure was said to reward or punish children, depending on whether they obeyed their parents or not.

Saint Nick became Santa Claus in the New World, when the Dutch Protestants of New Amsterdam introduced their native custom of giving children presents on Nicholas's feast day. Reindeer and other elements from Nordic folklore were added and soon the only thing missing was the red suit and white beard. The Coca Cola Company took care of that in the 1930s and established the image we know today – the most potent non-copyright, non-religious, non-governmental symbol in the world.

Combining re-enactments of miracles, unique graphic effects and different styles of filming, Seeking Santa will also show us what Saint Nick actually looked like: thanks to the bones preserved in Bari and Myra, a 3-D image of his skull has been "dressed" in flesh to reproduce his physical likeness. This is the latest project of director Martin Papirowski who has over twenty years experience in producing international co-productions.

December 12 at 2:00 PM

December 13 at 3:00 AM

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