Christmas in the Italian Language: The Original Santa Claus

Dec 05, 2017 997

BY: Dianne Hales

In some parts of Italy the feast  of San Nicola, patron saint of Bari, ushers in the Christmas season (stagione natalizia) with the giving of gifts (regali) on the eve or morning of December 6, his onomastico (name’s day). Although many stories of San Nicola’ s life may be mythical, he did inspire the figure of a beloved old man—whether he’s known as Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) or Santa Claus—who gives out presents in December.

The son of a wealthy Christian family, San Nicola grew up in a Greek-speaking colony of the Roman Empire, now part of Turkey, and became bishop (vescovo) of the city of Myra. In addition to saving a sailor from drowning during a voyage to Egypt, Nicola also reportedly restored three murdered children to life. And so he became the patron saint (patrono) of sailors (marinai) and children (bambini).

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