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  • Writer's pictureGrace A. Johnson

Name of the Week: Santa Claus

Y'all know I had to do it.

It's Christmastime, anyway, and you can't go wrong with a little festivity, now can you?

But Santa Claus is more than just a name selection--there's a nice long backstory I can launch into and many different name variations I can share. In this misguided Western World we live in, most everyone has begun to associate the name Santa Claus with the white-bearded fat man, right?

Well, just like said fat man wasn't always the man we envision, the name Santa Claus wasn't always scrawled out on envelopes and tied to the North Pole.

Santa Claus is Dutch in origin, actually, derived from the dialectal Sante Klaas. This form came from the Middle Dutch Sinter Niklaas, which ultimately comes from the English name for the Greek Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas, of course, was a follower of Christ in what is now modern-day Turkey who, because of his good deeds in both rescuing three girls from prostitution and caring for children, became well-known and revered throughout Asia Minor. He soon became the Bishop of Myra at a young age, and later the patron saint of children and sailors and of Russia and Greece. He also was known across the world to preform miracles.

After the Reformation, devotion to Saint Nicholas died out amongst all the Protestants in Europe but for the Dutch colonists, who brought his legend to New Amsterdam (modern-day New York). Their Sinterklaas merged with old Nordic folktales of a magician who (you guessed it) rewarded good children and punished naughty ones. Then--boom! Santa Claus was born among the English-speaking natives of the American colonies, and before long, their figure of both history and myth became legendary across the entire world.

Now, Father Christmas in England is a whole 'nother story. That name is attested from the 1650s, while Santa Claus didn't exist until the 1770s.

As for Kris Kringle... He's not even Saint Nicholas. In fact, the name Kris Kringle comes from the Pennsylvania German dialectal form of Christkindlein, which means... Christ Child. So there you have it, folks! Kris Kringle is Baby Jesus!

I didn't even go to Behind the Name for this Name of the Week. If you're interested in more information on the origins of Santa Claus, click here. For more about Saint Nicholas, click here!

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