Santa in Hittite Mythology
Legend of Father Christmas could have deeper links with myths of ancient
NTV, Istanbul, Turkey
December 18 -- A cup dating to the 14th century BC, held in the
collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, establishes another link
between the legend of Santa Claus and Anatolia.
The cup, a product of the Hittite Empire, is decorated with scenes depicting
the Hittite God Telepinu. However, it also contains all the elements of the
traditional depictions of Santa Claus: a pine tree, a bag full of gifts and
vehicle draw by deer.
Associate Professor Sedat Erkut, an expert on the history of the Hittites,
said that the story told on the cup was that of Telepinu, the Storm God,
losing his son. Erkut said that in an old text from the Hittite era there
was a legend that the God hung a sack of gifts as an offering for good
health and prosperity on a tree, beneath which there was a
This practice was adopted as a regular ritual with trees being cut down and
placed behind a statue of the God and with the sacrificing of a deer
according to Erkut. In the Hittites' tradition he said that then a type of
bread called Labka was broken into pieces to decorate the tree and then
place gifts in a skin bag.
"All of these cannot be a coincidence," Erkut said, comparing it to later
practices to commemorate Christmas.
He went on to say that Saint Nicholas of what is now the southern Turkish
town of Demre, who is widely acknowledged as being the founder of the story
of Santa Claus for giving gifts of money to young women who could not afford
their dowry, could have revived the Telepinu myth.
"Not every part of the Santa Claus story and the myth match each either," he
said. "One is a myth the other a saint that is known to lived there," Erkut