How did St. Nicholas turn into Santa Claus?

Clive and Ian’s 12 Questions of Christmas: Question 5

by Phil Vischer

Question #5

Brother Louie: It’s time for “Clive and Ian’s 12 Questions of Christmas!” Question five!

Ian: I’ve been waiting to ask this all night long! How did Saint Nicholas turn into Santa Claus?

Clive: Like we said yesterday, Saint Nicholas was a priest in Europe who helped the poor by dropping coins and gifts through their windows. Stories of Saint Nicholas coming to visit and bringing gifts for children spread throughout Europe, and then to America when the Dutch founded New Amsterdam in 1625.

Ian: New Amsterdam? Never heard of it.

Clive: Sure you have. Only now it’s called “New York.”

Ian: New York? Oh, I’ve heard of that.

Clive: Right. New York was founded by Dutch settlers whose kids would set out their boots and stockings waiting for Saint Nicholas to visit. But in Dutch, Saint Nicholas was called “Sinter Claase.”

Ian: “Sinter Claase?”

Clive: Right! American author, Washington Irving, wrote a book about the history of New York in 1809, and talked about the Dutch children waiting for “Sinter Claase.” Except in his book, he changed the name to “Santa Claus!”

Ian: What?! He changed the name?!

Clive: We don’t know why. But soon, kids all over America were waiting for gifts from “Santa Claus.” The celebration of St. Nicholas Day on December 6th and “Christ’s Mass” on December 25th sort of merged together, and now we have one holiday called “Christmas” that celebrates both the birth of Jesus, and the gift-giving and generosity of someone who loved Jesus very much—jolly old Saint Nicholas!

Ian: Oh! That makes me think of another question!

Clive: Save it.

Ian: Right.


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