Turkey wants the remains of old St Nick
- Turkey will ask for the return of the bones of Saint Nicholas, who Father Christmas is modelled on, from their display in Italy, local media reported on Friday.
Saint Nicholas, from the modern-day town of Demre on southern Turkey's Mediterranean coast, is, according to tradition, the ancestor of Father Christmas, but his remains were stolen by Italian pirates in the 11th century.
"These bones should be exposed here and not in a town of pirates" in Bari, said Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay, quoted in the newspaper Milliyet.
"If we build a museum in this town (Demre), naturally the first thing we will ask for are the remains of Father Christmas".
The minister gave no schedule for the museum construction, which would exhibit relics of ancient civilisations, but said that after a study by experts, Turkey would request that Italy return the remains of Saint Nicholas.
Many tourists, especially from Russia, visit the Saint Nicholas church in today's Demre, a fifth-century Byzantine basilica rebuilt in the 11th century.
Nicholas was a bishop in ancient Myra (Demre) in the fourth century, during the Byzantine period.
He was buried in Myra, but pirates stole his remains in the 11th century and brought them to Bari in southern Italy, placing them in its own Saint Nicholas basilica.
Saint Nicholas is celebrated for his charity, and his generosity towards others is at the origin of the character of Father Christmas, who took Nicholas's place in Christianity as the giver of presents to children.