An Italian bishop has ruined Christmas by telling children that Santa does not exist – and even if they spot him it will only be their dad or an uncle in a costume.
The bishop of Noto uttered the blunt comments during the Festival delle Arti Effimere (Ephemeral Arts Festival) held in the city of Noto in the province of Syracuse on the Italian island of Sicily.
Monsignor Antonio Stagliano told the youngsters packing the Minor Basilica of St Nicholas of Myra, which serves as the city’s cathedral, on Monday: “Santa Claus does not exist, indeed I’ll add that the red dress he wears was chosen by Coca Cola exclusively for advertising purposes.”
Not only did the bishop’s words shatter the children’s innocent illusions, they also reportedly angered their parents, who were faced with the inevitable awkward conversation with their kids about whether what the clergyman had said was true or not.
The bishop made the comments about Father Christmas being made up to explain to the youngsters that the figure was inspired by the early Christian bishop Saint Nicholas, who lived from 270 to 343 and who hailed from the then Roman city of Myra, which is now the modern-day town of Demre on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
The bishop’s words caused a stir on social media, forcing him to comment on his now notorious speech.
He said: “I said that Santa Claus is not a historical person like Saint Nicholas, from whom the fictional character was drawn.
“I encouraged the youngest to have a more embodied idea of Santa Claus in order to better experience the wait for and, above all, the exchanging of gifts.
“If Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas, children should be open to a feeling of helping one another, to the solidarity of gifts for the poorest children.”
He added: “With all due respect for the Coca Cola manufacturer, which invented Santa Claus, the bishop’s task is to announce evangelical charity, also through these symbols of popular culture.
“It is a way to do pop theology and recover the true meaning of the Christian tradition of Christmas. Otherwise, children know that Santa Claus is dad or uncle. So no broken dreams.”
On its web site the Coca Cola company did admit its role in the creation of the colourful character, saying: “Before 1931, there were many different depictions of Santa Claus around the world, including a tall gaunt man and an elf —there was even a scary Claus.
“But in 1931, Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom to paint Santa for Christmas advertisements. Those paintings established Santa as a warm, happy character with human features, including rosy cheeks, a white beard, twinkling eyes and laughter lines.
“Sundblom drew inspiration from an 1822 poem by Clement Clark Moore called “A Visit from St. Nicholas” —commonly known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
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Story By: William McGee, Sub-Editor: James King, Agency: Newsflash
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