Each year, Santa Claus spends two nights flying around the world delivering Christmas presents to good little boys and girls. His magic reindeer pull his sleigh across the skies through the air space of every single country on the planet. But it’s not just the multitude of stamps in Santa’s passports that prove what a global citizen he is, it’s his background and mindset too.
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk named Nicholas who lived around 280 A.D. near modern-day Turkey. According to StNicholasCenter.org, after his parents died, Nicholas, a devout Christian, used his inherited wealth to help those in need. He later became the Bishop of Myra. As a bishop, Nicholas became known far and wide for his generosity and kindness, especially towards children and sailors. The Dutch Sinterklaas as well as many other European iterations seem to have stemmed from this historical figure.
One example of his good works is the story of the three daughters. A poor man did not have dowries for his three daughters and was therefore unable to secure good marriages for them. It seemed the daughters were in for a future of slavery when bags of gold suddenly appeared in their home in stockings and shoes that stood by the fire. The gold was enough for dowries for all three daughters.
Another story tells of a young boy who was kidnapped from his hometown of Myra on the eve of St. Nicholas’ feast day to be taken as a slave. He became a cupbearer for the king of the people who had taken him. One year later, it is said that the boy was suddenly whisked away by St. Nicholas and appeared miraculously before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup.
Realizing that the world is bigger than one’s own backyard is a key trait of the global citizen. It seems St. Nick had this very same realization. He saw that the world didn’t revolve around himself, but rather that he was part of a human collective and it was his duty to help others in and beyond his community. He realized that he had wealth while others did not, and he used that wealth to help those in need. This combination of thought and action in terms of community involvement and fighting for an equitable world are fundamental to the idea of global citizenship.
Today, Santa travels the world bringing hope and joy to children everywhere. This line of work really highlights Santa’s emphasis on world community and such a community’s values. Though extreme consumerism has taken over this time of year, we would all do well to remember St. Nicholas and the meaning of his story.
Getting back to the pragmatic side of Santa’s global citizenship, he actually spends two nights delivering gifts. Many children, mainly in European countries, wake up on the morning of December 6 to find toys and treats in their boots, delivered by St. Nick during the night. On the night of December 24, he has to do the whole thing over again. There are really very many children in the world, so it’s no wonder Santa splits up his work like this.
And if you think jolly old St. Nick is exempt from regular travel measures just because he’s, well, Santa, think again. He still has to abide by the same rules as everyone else, meaning before he takes off from the North Pole he needs to make sure he has all his travel documents with him. Given his history, it’s safe to assume that Santa Claus has at least a Turkish and a Dutch passport.
According to Passport Index, the Turkish passport ranks 87th among global passports, allowing visa-free entry to 69 countries and visa-on-arrival to 34 countries. Meanwhile, the Dutch passport ranks 12th, allowing visa-free entry to 119 countries and visa-on-arrival to 36 countries.
Old Saint Nick would be wise to stick with his Dutch passport as it allows him entry into almost every country in the world. Unfortunately, he’ll need visas for the remaining 40-odd countries. Even if he applies for a German passport, ranked first globally with a visa-free score of 158, he’ll gain visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to just five more countries, leaving still more than 30 that require visas.
Hopefully his elves can help him with that.