First posted 5th December 2012
The subject matter of this blog could not be more topical, given that tomorrow - December 6th - is St. Nicholas' Day. And did you know that this person (who is the inspiration for the modern-day Santa Claus) actually came from the south of Turkey?
In the ancient region of Lycia, near Antalya there is a town called Demre - if you visit in the hot summer you will be amazed to see a rather incongruous-looking statue of Santa Claus on a column in the middle of a square, dressed in full winter Christmas attire. This statue (see photo below) is situated in front of the old Church of St. Nicholas.
Baba Noel Statue in Demre
Demre used to be known as Myra and during Byzantine times this was the home of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. Nicholas was born in Patara in AD 300 and died around 50 years later. It is believed the original church was built over his tomb. 
Bishop Nicholas became famous for secretly giving gifts to the poor. According to legend, he would put coins in shoes which children and the poor left out for him. A famous tale has him dropping bags of gold down a chimney (!!), thereby saving three girls from being forced into a life of slavery because their merchant father could not provide the money for a marriage dowry.
After his death, Nicholas over time became patron saint of (among other things): children, sailors, merchants, archers, pawnbrokers and repentant thieves. He is of course also revered by Christians, both Western and Orthodox. The association of St. Nicholas with gift-giving is now firmly embedded in Northern European culture, to the extent that in countries where the tradition is strong (such as Germany and the Netherlands) the 6th December marks the day when shoes or stockings are left out to be filled with treats or small gifts. 
To read more, visit the website of the official St Nicholas Centre
In modern Turkey Father Christmas is known as Noel Baba. Despite the country being 99% muslim and the 25th December being just another working day, Father Christmas still puts in a very strong appearance in shopping malls and the like. The Turks have simply and somewhat cleverly bolted the commercial aspect of Christmas on to their New Year holiday celebrations. So if you want to wish somebody "Merry Christmas" you just say "mutlu yıllar", which means "Happy New Year". 
Turkish New Year WreathGourd Christmas decoration from Demre
A huge, heartfelt  thank you goes out to everyone who has supported us in 2012, either by visiting us at Smithbrook Kilns, by making online purchases or by providing invaluable feedback in any shape or form. We have had an incredibly exciting year and are looking forward to developing our hamam towel and home textiles business - both at retail and wholesale - hand in hand with our much-valued customers. 
Ailera would like to take this opportunity to wish all our customers a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.