St. Nicholas vs. Santa Clause



My name is Marin and I’m a catholic from Croatia and I’m confused with american way of interpreting St. Nicholas. I’ve been reading forums, sites and articles about connection of these two gift-givers and some are writing that St.Nick and Santa Clause are the same guy.
But I pounce on this article where is written that they are not the same.
And on the St.Nick page I found the article where is written: …“St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are the same person, but many people don’t realize that. They are one in the same, but they look different because they are at different points in his posthumous evolution.”

Why then the Catholics in USA “celebrate” St. Nick and Santa Clause if they are the same?
How can you explain to me what’s the difference between two jolly gift-givers?
My opinion is that they are totally different persons. One is Catholic Saint, and other is protestant-jewish connection with Christmas.


That was a very interesting article. I am not fluent in European mythology, but I thought that Thor was a Nordic god not a Germanic god. I have thought that St. Nicholas and Santa Claus were similar. When the question of Santa Claus’ existence was to come up, I was going to point them in the direction of St. Nicholas, and say “He is a saint, so he is still alive”. Now I am going to have to do some research and see if this is still a good idea. After reading your post I am reminded, however, that my grandmother told me that there were two Santa Clauses when she was a little girl in Fussen, Germany. One was dressed like a bishop, hence St. Nicholas, the other looked like the U.S. Santa Claus. St. Nicholas gave presents, and the other put bad children in his sack to whip them. I will have to ask her about that again.


Welcome to the forum, Marin! :wave: If my husband and I had to move to another country, Croatia would definitely be on our list. Not many countries celebrate the Assumption of Mary as a national holiday! :thumbsup:

Yes, I have always heard people referring to St. Nick and Santa as the same person. Well, the names are very similar, just in different forms… St. Nicholas… Santa Nicholas… Santa 'Claus. “Santa” is the way of saying “Saint” in some languages, and “Claus” is sort of a nick-name for Nicholas.


Germans have nowdays two “Santas” one is Sankt Nikolaus and other is Weinachtman. First come on December 6., and other one like US Santa on Christmas Eve.
What your Grandmother have told is probably the story of Pelznickel or Belsnickle (“Furry Nicholas”) who visited naughty children in their sleep. Or it could be a companion of St. Nick named Krampus that is a version of demon.

I suggest to you to read this two articles and then you’ll see the differences or similarities of two gift-givers

**Saint Nicholas and the Origin of Santa Claus **

How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus: One Theory :


I’ve always thought that they’re the same person. Read that from a storybook when I was little. That’s all the proof I needed back then, well, that and all the presents in the stockings!

Man, I miss Christmas when I was little.


Far as I know they are the same. Santa Claus is simply St. Nicholas with a heavily embellished posthumous biography.


I don’t know about american interpretation of the two, but let me just


since now I’m no longer the only Croatian on this forum :smiley:



You are welcome in Croatia anytime.

About names: The name Santa Claus is derived from Sinterklaas, the Dutch name for the character based on St. Nicholas. He is also known there by the name of Sint Nicolaas which explains the use of the two fairly dissimilar names Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas or St. Nick BUT the Dutch Sinterklaas is different from Santa Claus in many ways Dutch word for Santa Claus is Kerstman (“Christmas man”), Dutch Sinterklaas was americanized into “Santa Claus” but lost his bishop’s apparel, and was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat and that is what confuses me.

@dranzal and catechumen08

Till two months ago I’ve also thought that Santa = St. Nicholas in USA, but I ran on this article from catholic site which quality is unknown for me but it seems good:

Please, can you comment this article.

And what about US Catholics christmas songs and carolls are they the world famous Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy… Do you have traditonal Christmas catholic songs in USA?


LOL, well, Silent Night is a more traditional Catholic Christmas song (see a history of it here: which I think is accurate) and there are others, but we are notorious for “stealing” the Protestant hymns. But, for instance: O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles), In the Bleak Midwinter, Lo, How a Rose 'er Blooming, and there are others…

Hope that helps! God bless,


@Jennifer J

Yes, I know everything about Silent Night, it’s traditional to all Catholics in the World, but St. Nicholas is tradition in Europe which you don’t have, so… And except of Silent Night and Adeste Fideles others I never heard for. I know so little about US catholics that I am a shamed. Everything we know about US Catholics and Christmas in US is from movies, which are not so catholic how I thought.

As I can tell now from my knowledge is that Christians in US have more commonly things then in EU, especially in Croatia. For example we have ours traditional Christmas songs, and few international like Silent Night (Tiha Noć) and we have never had “steal” anything from others religion.

That is why that all confuses me. In US Christmas celebrate Muslims, Jewish and others. It has became an all-religion holiday. But in CRO is still and only Christians holiday. That is why I asked about original Christmas catholics songs and I see that they are not popular one that we heard from movies.

Now I know why US Catholics adopt Santa Claus as a main gift-giver who is not Catholic “persona”. First reason is that you live in multi cultural country where live so many nations and you have developed in most democratic nation in the world so you don’t have that differences inside Christians culture. And the second is you have developed Christmas on higher level then other nations. But in that development economic side of Christmas took its part. That is what happening now in CRO everybody see economic side of Christmas, but more and more people forgot about Child Jesus under the Christmas Tree in his manger. Correct me if I’m wrong!


Well I talked with my grandmother last night and she confirmed a “second Santa”, although I think the only similarity is they carried a sack. His name is Knecht Ruprecht. Here is an article that I found by doing a quick Google search:


I think you presume too much about Catholics in America.

As far as I believe, they are the same persona. Went to Catholic school for 12 years - that is what we were taught.

In fact, on the Feast of St Nicholas last year, our priest kindly told us the story behind the beloved Bishop Nicholas and it’s evolution to Santa.

There are a great many of us that relate the two.


I was first introduced to the German way years ago when I dated a German fellow. I liked that interpretation! I don’t want much to do with the American Santa Claus, because he represents to me the materialistic and fictional parts of Christmas. But if Sankt Nikolaus wants to come and leave chocolate coins in my shoes on Dec. 6, I won’t turn him away! :wink: But come Dec. 24, I’ll reserve Christmas Eve for celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, and skip on the fat jolly guy with his reindeer and his sleigh loaded with the latest toys.


My apology to all. I don’t want to be presume to anyone. I just want to find the “Truth” about Santa. And jrabs you help me a lot. If you have learnt in Catholic School that Santa is evolution of St. Nicholas then that must be a truth, we never learnt about Santa only St.Nicholas. BUT. My priest and Croatian Catholic Church teach us, that Santa is bad product of consumerism in west. And that fact is so hard to understand for me. US Catholics - Santa is OK, EU Catholics - Santa is bad. Why are so different opinions in Catholic church?
jrab I want you to read this article and comment it…iew.cfm?id=210



You know - Santa is not bad in my head because Santa is merely St Nicholas. It’s what people have turned Santa into. A jolly gift giver - materialism and commercialism at it’s best ( or worst).

Just as Christmas has become to many a secular holiday denoting gifts and selfish pleasures with no hint of Jesus. Jesus who?

However, it is our job as Catholics and parents to teach the fundamentals of the holiday. Christ is Christmas as St Nicholas is Santa. The reason behind Bishop Nicholas’ gift giving.

The holidays are not bad - it’s what people have turned them into.


Very nice reply, thank you for that.

Minutes ago I’ve talked with my friend historian and theologian about Santa and St. Nicholas.

This are answers I was looking for.

Santa Claus, for Americans is Saint Nicholas, more accurate, Santa is evolution of european Saint Nicholas. In some EU countries for example countries that have had communist regime, was developed a character know as Grandfather Frost in order to decrease real meaning of Christmas and to turn Christmas to secular holiday. Now when there is no communism the custom of gift-giver stays and children have two gift-givers St. Nicholas and Grandfather “what so ever”. Years before communism or even for communist regime, extreme catholics have remained to have catholic gift-givers, Saint Nicholas and Child Jesus (Nowdays as jrab said: Jesus Who?). Every EU “versions” of Santa are “opponents” of Saint Nicholas. And that is how Protestants in Germany have made new character Weihnachtsmann, or Brits have made Father Christmas in oposing to everything that is related to catholics. And now we have Saint Nicholas his American evo Santa Claus and his “mates” Father Christmas, Grandfather Frost or Grandfather Christmas and etc. So in USA St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are one person, but in EU they are different, but they all have something in common. They (read WE) moved away Baby Jesus the biggest gift for Christmas, the gift made by God, and put human gifts that we all know which they are.
Conclusion of this I found on this forum that some have post it, and that is the way we should celebrate Christmas, the author of this post is rayne89, please read


Growing up as a Catholic in the US… Santa is Saint Nicholas.

I don’t agree with the article on
I mean, it has good intentions of clearing up the “meaning of Christmas” in discussions with our children… but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with allowing our children to believe in Santa Claus as children.

I actually believe that there is benefit to our psycology to grow up knowing the JOY, FUN, and EXCITEMENT of Christmas… and I think as children mature that joy, fun, and excitement only matures into a deeper faith.

In my opinion… they are one in the same. Teach them about the wonderful Saint that loved to share gifts with children to celebrate the birth of Christ!
I think that distinguishing one from the other will build a conflict in the simple minds of children…
Keep it simple.


Hi Marin (Zdravo, Marine! :slight_smile: ),


I believe your problem with Santa is the same as mine, since we are both from countries that used to belong to Communist Yugoslavia, where ‘Santa’ (Deda Mraz) wasn’t only a materialistically evolved version of St. Nicholas, but an invented Communist characted pitted directly AGAINST Christmas. He appeared for New Year’s Eve, not Christmas, and we also had ‘New Year’s tree’, ‘New Year’s presents’, the works.

And the religious continued all the while to have their own traditions involving St. Nicholas (my Orthodox grandmother used to put shoes in her window on his feast day, and he’d ‘put’ a present there - through her parents, of course) so the two didn’t seem to be connected in any way.

I don’t think he’s such an evil grandpa in the US :wink:

God bless!



In the United States Santa Claus started out as St. Nicholas, but in recent yearts there has been a movement toward making Christmas more and more secular, taking the religious meaning out of it. It has become politically incorrect to even acknowledge the name “Christmas” in the area of commercial advertising. Now they refer to it as “The Holidays.” In keeping with this movement, Santa Claus has been so secularized and commercialized as to be unrecognizable as “St. Nick.” The Santa Claus in current U.S. culture has no resemblance to St. Nicholas.


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