Question 5: How did St. Nicholas Become Santa Claus?

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How did St. Nicholas become Santa Claus?

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. Other early Americans heard the Dutch stories about waiting for “Sinter Claase,” and they wanted to be a part of it. Except they didn’t speak Dutch, so the Dutch name “Sinter Claase” was slowly changed to the name we hear today, “Santa Claus!”

Ian
Whoa! That’s where Santa Claus came from?

Clive
That’s right. Soon, kids all over America were waiting for gifts from “Santa Claus.” The celebration of St. Nicholas Day on December 6 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
So Christmas in America is really two holidays put together!

Clive
Exactly! That’s why it can seem sort of confusing sometimes!

Ian
That makes me think of another question.

Clive
Save it.

Ian
Right.

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