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18 April 2010

'Just say no to a coat-wearing Santa,' culture minister urges

The modern image of Santa Claus is a creation of the Coca-Cola Company that does not reflect the real gift-giving figure on which the icon was based, says Culture

Minister Ertuğrul Günay, calling for the promotion of faith tourism to St Nicholas' Mediterranean birthplace. The head of the Santa Claus Peace Council says the effort is too little, too late

The fat man riding a sleigh pulled by reindeer is a false image of Santa Claus created by the Coca-Cola Company, according to Turkey’s culture minister, who seeks to reclaim St. Nick for his original homeland.

Santa’s familiar long white beard and red coat with a white collar certainly wouldn’t be appropriate beach attire in any season in Antalya’s Demre district, where the original St. Nicolas lived.

If this globally recognized image of Santa Claus is accepted by Turkish people, Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay says, the Christmas icon will forever lose his tie to the Mediterranean region, where people can swim in the sea even during wintertime.

“Let’s not give in to a coat-wearing Santa Claus,” Günay said at the Demre-Myra Symposium held April 11 in Demre, the Doğan news agency reported. The culture minister said the Coca-Cola Company, which used the now-iconic figures in magazine advertisements starting in 1931, had created a “false image” for Saint Nicholas.

The popular saint, who lived in what is now the Demre district of Antalya between the second and third centuries, was famous for secretly giving gifts, a practice that made him the inspiration for the modern Santa Claus and his midnight chimney drops.

The Coca-Cola Company did not respond to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review’s request for a comment on Günay’s remarks.

In his speech, Günay called for increasing faith tourism to Antalya by promoting the St. Nicolas connection. “Let’s not follow a commercial product. Let’s tell the world that St. Nicholas was not riding a sleigh,” he said, adding that activities related to the real story of the saint should be promoted in Demre.

Noting that St. Nicholas’ bones were taken to Italy in 1087, Günay said: “This was disrespectful to a saint. We will bring them back here, so people can come here and have their worship.”

Some Santa Claus promoters in Turkey, however, say it is too late to change Father Christmas’ modern image, and blame the Culture Ministry for not promoting the rebranding earlier.

Turkey’s budget will not be enough to change the popular image, Muammer Karabulut, the head of the Santa Claus Peace Council, said Monday, advising the Culture Ministry to work on a international Santa-themed message of peace instead.

Işık Soytürk, an archaeologist who wrote a children’s book titled “Saint Nicholas,” told the Daily News that the book aims to teach the Mediterranean image of Santa Claus to children around the world. She added, however, that her request to promote her book, which has been translated into 10 languages, internationally – or at least to Demre visitors – had not been answered by the Culture Ministry.

Santa Claus is depicted riding a ship in the pictures of Soytürk’s book, first printed in 2002. She said many foreigners are surprised when they learn that Santa Claus originally came from Turkey



12:33 Posted in TURKEY | Permalink | Comments (4) |  Facebook |


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