Life Christmas

Thursday 13 December 2018

Researchers at Oxford find the legend of Father Christmas is true

Handout photo issued by the University of Oxford of a pelvis fragment believed to be that of fourth-century saint St Nicholas who inspired the story of Father Christmas. Photo: PA
Handout photo issued by the University of Oxford of a pelvis fragment believed to be that of fourth-century saint St Nicholas who inspired the story of Father Christmas. Photo: PA

Ellie Cullen

A fragment of bone said to belong to the fourth-century saint who inspired the story of Father Christmas could indeed be from the legend himself.

Researchers at the University of Oxford radiocarbon tested the relic, long venerated as the bones of St Nicholas, and found it dates from the correct historical period.

While they cannot categorically prove they are from the Christian saint, the team said the results pinpointed the relic's age to the fourth century.

"Many relics that we study turn out to date to a period somewhat later than the historic attestation would suggest," said Professor Tom Higham, director of the Oxford Relics Cluster at Keble College's Advanced Studies Centre.

"This bone fragment, in contrast, suggests that we could possibly be looking at remains from St Nicholas himself."

St Nicholas, one of the most revered Christian saints, is thought to have lived in Myra, which is now modern-day Turkey.

According to legend, he was a wealthy man who was widely known for his generosity - a trait that inspired the story of Father Christmas as a bringer of gifts on Christmas Day.

Most of his remains have been held in Bari, Italy, since 1087, but over the years relic fragments have been acquired by churches worldwide.

The bone analysed in Oxford - a pelvic fragment - is owned by Fr Dennis O'Neill, of St Martha of Bethany Church, in Illinois, US.

Irish Independent

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