Secret Santa: The Hidden History Of Jolly Old St. Nicholas…And His ‘Elves’

Statue in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Giovinazzo (Apulia), Italy • Privately owned 19th century Russian icon • 17th-18th century painting in the Basilica of St. Nicolas of Bari (Puglia), Italy • 14th century statue in a chapel at the Norman castle in Sannicandro, Bari (Puglia), Italy

While doing seemingly unrelated research on the web some years ago, I got an unexpected clue from an old Russian painting that we don’t know even half as much about St. Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) in America as we think we do. And after some 200 years of Christmastime tradition, you’d think that we’d know all that there is to know about a guy who has unrestricted…