The Origin of Santa Claus and the Christian Response to Him
By Dr. Richard P. Bucher
It’s my turn to author an article that claims to penetrate the dark and obscure recesses of the origin of Santa
Claus. How shall we understand the Santa Claus phenomenon? Is it pure paganism foisted upon an unsuspecting populace? Is Santa Satan in disguise (there is after all, the same
letters in both names, as some guardians of all that is good remind us). Or is Santa a Christian after all, since
he really is St. Nicholas, a Christian bishop of the fourth century? So which is it? Is Santa Claus harmless or hellspawn or something in between? Though knowing his origin can’t decide all these questions, it still is an important point of departure.
Actually, the truth of the matter is that the modern Santa Claus is a conglomeration of sources, a legendary
being that has evolved over the years. Along the way, pre-Christian legends, the story of St. Nicholas, Dutch immigrants to America, Washington Irving, Clement Moore, Thomas Nast, and the Coca-Cola company,
all made their contributions.
The Saint Nicholas Connection
It is well known that the name “Santa Claus” comes to us by way of the Dutch “Sinter Klaas,” which in turn,
was a form of Saint Nicholas. Our modern Santa Claus took his name from the Christian Saint Nicholas so
we need to begin with a look at this Christian bishop of the fourth century.
Throughout history Nicholas of Myra (d. 350) has been one of the most beloved saints even apart from the
The Feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 has been observed with great enthusiasm throughout Medieval Europe
Because of the gift-giving legends associated with Nicholas, it was held (especially in Belgium and Holland)
Santa Claus in America
In his Folklore on the American Land,9 Duncan Emrich tells us of the next evidence we have of the
Old Santeclaus with much delight
There is universal consensus that the person most responsible for shaping the American version of Santa
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
There is a legend that Moore wrote this poem on Christmas Eve, 1822, during a carriage
The poem wasn’t published until a year later, and that secretly, without Moore’s consent. He didn’t think it