The holiday season means delicious foods, celebrations, decorations, and the appearance of a strange man in a red suit who flies through the air with eight reindeer. Christmas is indeed a strange holiday!
To celebrate, we are taking a look at this iconic figure, Santa Claus, and his many nicknames. The name “Santa Claus” is common in the US, but other names and nicknames (see below) are also used. Check them out! But first, why do we use the word “nickname?” Linguist John McWhorter explains the fascinating origins of this word in this Ted Ed video.
Etymology of the word “nickname”
Watch McWhorter’s video to understand how this word came to be.
Now that you know the origins of the word “nickname,” let’s take a look at some of the many nicknames for Santa Claus!
Nicknames for Santa Claus
Jolly Old St. Nick
This nickname is the title of a famous Christmas song, but it’s also a name many people use for Santa Claus. Check out the song below!
We know that there really was a man named Nicholas who was wealthy and generous, but exactly where history becomes myth is a mystery. Learn all about the story of Nicholas, who lived in modern-day Turkey, in this article about the origin of Saint Nicholas. The generous man was later named a saint by the Catholic church, hence the name “Saint” Nicholas.
Nicholas has a nickname: Nick! (How many times can you use “nick” in a sentence??) “Nicholas” is shortened to “Nick” for the name “Saint Nick,” which is very common. The man in red is referred to as “Saint Nick” in this famous Christmas song: check it out below!
The origins of this nickname are not clear, but many believe that this is actually from the German words Christkindlein, Christkind’l, meaning “Christ child,” which was used in reference to baby Jesus, not Santa Claus! However, the name came to be used for the man commonly called Santa Claus.
The Catholic tradition fell out of style around the time of the Protestant Reformation, but the tradition of gift-giving and the character of Saint Nick lived on. To move away from the word “Saint,” which is associated with Catholicism, people (particularly in the UK) began using names like “Father Christmas.”
Old Man Christmas
Another name that emerged around the same time as “Father Christmas,” this is probably another attempt to remove Catholicism from the holiday tradition. This name is also more common in the UK and not used often in the US.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our students and staff! We hope Santa brings you what you want this year!