Daily Illuminator

December 19, 2012: Tracking Santa Through History

Every Christmas Eve, TV stations use their weather radar to track Santa's progress to your home town But you can use the GURPS Hot Spots series to track Santa through the past! Matt Riggsby -- the author of Hot Spots: Constantinople, 527-1204 A.D. and Hot Spots: Renaissance Florence -- takes us on a holiday tour of those two locales:

GURPS Hot Spots: Constantinople, 527-1204 A.D.

GURPS Hot Spots: Renaissance Florence

Is there a better place to celebrate Christmas than the foremost city of Medieval Christendom, Constantinople? Probably; the Orthodox make a bigger deal out of Easter. Still, they celebrate the season over 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany with door-to-door singing, christopsomo (an elaborate bread), and processions from church to bless nearby waters; if adventurers need epic quantities of holy water, the Bosporus around Christmas may qualify. Santa visited Constantinople before anywhere else: in 352 A.D., St. Nicholas of Myra passed through the city to participate in the first ecumenical council. Adventurers can participate in his fistfight with the heretical bishop Arius!

Christmas is more important in Italy. An enormous log is lit in the hearth on Christmas Eve, nativities are rife, everyone eats a huge lunch (heavy on the seafood), and La Befana leaves presents in children's shoes on Epiphany. And Italy, not the North Pole, is Santa's current residence; sailors from Bari and Venice recovered the bones of St. Nicholas around the First Crusade to save them from advancing Turks. Legend says they exude sweet-smelling manna with healing properties. That's reason enough to want them, but who would be more interested in the remains of the patron saint of pawnbrokers than the powerful banking families of Florence? No matter how bad your family is during the holidays, they've got nothing on the scheming of Renaissance powerhouses like the Medici, who may send agents against the kingdom of Napoli and the Venetian republic to fill their own stockings.

For more exotic real-world insight you can use throughout the year, direct your sleigh toward e23!

-- Steven Marsh and Matt Riggsby

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