Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and simply "Santa", is a figure who in many cultures is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children on the night before Christmas, December 24. The modern figure of Santa Claus was derived in part from the historical Christian bishop Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas was a 4th century Greek bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous and secretive gift-giving to the poor, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In continental Europe (more precisely the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Germany) he is usually portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes. In addition to infants and children, Saint Nicholas was later claimed as a patron saint of many diverse groups. He is also the patron saint of both Amsterdam and Moscow.
Today, the figure of Santa Claus is generally accepted and loved all over the world, from the United States to China, both by religious Christians and by secular or religious non-Christians. However, his image remains taboo in many Islamic countries and communities. This has led to incidents of violence and murder.
A 24-year-old named Parviz Davlatbekov in Tajikistan who was visiting relatives dressed as Santa Claus was stabbed and beaten to death by a crowd of Muslims shouting "You infidel!" in January 2012. Police have said it was "motivated by religious hatred" There has also been several violent incidents related to Santa Claus in the Netherlands, where in 2011 a group of ten Dutch-Moroccan Muslim youths stoned a man dressed as Santa Claus in the southwestern Slotervaart neighborhood of Amsterdam. Similarly in 1996, Muslim teenagers attacked another man dressed as Santa Claus in front of a group of young children. They knocked off his bishop's miter and ripped off his beard, forcing him to flee by car.
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- Santa Claus - Wikipedia, accessed May 15, 2013
- Saint Nicholas - Wikipedia, accessed May 15, 2013
- Santa Claus: The real man behind the myth - MSNBC, December 22, 2009
- People: St. Nicholas—nearly everybody's saint! - St. Nicholas Center, accessed May 15, 2013
- Places - St. Nicholas Center, accessed May 15, 2013
- Roman Kozhevnikov - "Father Christmas" stabbed to death in Tajikistan - Reuters, January 2, 2012
- St. assaulted in Slotervaart - NUjij (Dutch), December 7, 2011
- Marlise Simons - Saint Nicholas receiving cold shoulder in Netherlands - The New York Times, December 15, 1996