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View Full Version : Why do American kids call Santa Claus "Santa" instead of "Claus" ?



Maciamo
30-11-11, 10:34
I often hear in American films or series children exclaiming "Santa !" when they see the old beardy guy. Many adults refer to him as Santa too. That sounds preposterous since Santa Claus is just a Scandinavian deformation of Saint Nicholas, and therefore Santa just means Saint. That's his title. His name is Claus. The Japanese do the same mistake, but at least they have the excuse that it is not part of their culture or language group.

Mzungu mchagga
30-11-11, 11:53
Most Americans are protestants, but protestantism doesn't contain any Saints anyway, so the expression is senseless right from the beginning. I guess it's just a remnant of a past time long ago, and Americans of today don't know what they are talking about when they call Santa Claus "Santa".
Next question would be why they celebrate Halloween?

edao
30-11-11, 13:30
I grew up calling him Santa, as far as I'm aware most folk in the UK do the same.
Most native English speakers have zero tolerance for learning other languages, they simply haven't made or are aware of the santa meaning. Its like Italian coffee names in English sound upmarket exotic names but in fact are completely mundane in Italian.

Anything non anglo-american is foreign and should be destroyed!:laughing:
Don't you know you pesky continentals are messing up our economy, so says our chancellor.

Antigone
30-11-11, 16:56
Yes, we called him Santa in Australia too, and kids still do there. It is plain ignorance as MM and Edao have already said, other languages just don't enter into the pshyche of the English speaking world. In Greece he is called Agios Vasili (Saint Basil) and he brings presents on New Years Eve, not at Xmas. Everyone who borrows traditions from others will adapt them to fit with their own customs.

Halloween is an old Scottish tradition, All Hallows Even (Evening) which is apparently linked to the old Irish/Celtish festival of Samhain, meaning summer's end. It was felt that at this time of year the physical and supernatural worlds were at their closest, and magical things could happen. The tradition was carried by immigrants to the US and over time has become somewhat barstardised (and completely commercialised) from the original Scottish celebrations, and now the US commercial version of Halloween has been carried back to the UK. The circle turns full, I suppose.

sparkey
30-11-11, 18:02
Another "incorrect" name for Santa Claus in North America is "Kris Kringle." That name is derived from the German "Christkind," of course meaning "Christ-child," who traditionally filled the role of Santa in certain German-speaking areas. And yet in America, the name is given to Santa!


Most Americans are protestants, but protestantism doesn't contain any Saints anyway, so the expression is senseless right from the beginning.

But Lutherans (and Anglicans/Episcopalians for that matter) do keep a calendar of the saints, and those in denominations that reject keeping a calendar of saints (like Baptists) at least usually know what saints are. IIRC Santa Claus was imported to America primarily by Lutherans.

Mzungu mchagga
30-11-11, 18:11
Another "incorrect" name for Santa Claus in North America is "Kris Kringle." That name is derived from the German "Christkind," of course meaning "Christ-child," who traditionally filled the role of Santa in certain German-speaking areas. And yet in America, the name is given to Santa!

But Lutherans (and Anglicans/Episcopalians for that matter) do keep a calendar of the saints, and those in denominations that reject keeping a calendar of saints (like Baptists) at least usually know what saints are. IIRC Santa Claus was imported to America primarily by Lutherans.

Oh, ok I didn't know that! I was raised Lutheran Protestant (here Lutheran Protestants refer to themselves as "Evangelical"), and there is nothing such as a calendar or general worship of saints, it's always regarded as Catholic.
Also I grew up with "Christkind", as my mother came from Saxony where the Christmas Child came instead of Father Christmas.

sparkey
30-11-11, 19:14
Oh, ok I didn't know that! I was raised Lutheran Protestant (here Lutheran Protestants refer to themselves as "Evangelical"), and there is nothing such as a calendar or general worship of saints, it's always regarded as Catholic.

Yeah, it's more of a Scandinavian thing IIRC. The two largest Lutheran denominations in America keep one (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_of_Saints_%28Lutheran%29). They have some interesting "saints" like John Wesley and Harriet Tubman.


Also I grew up with "Christkind", as my mother came from Saxony where the Christmas Child came instead of Father Christmas.

Which do you prefer?

Mzungu mchagga
30-11-11, 22:11
Yeah, it's more of a Scandinavian thing IIRC. The two largest Lutheran denominations in America keep one (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_of_Saints_%28Lutheran%29). They have some interesting "saints" like John Wesley and Harriet Tubman.
Oh wew, that's really new to me. Thanks for sharing! I've looked it up again and it seems that the German Lutheran Church is one of the few exceptions without having saints (perhaps alongside with Scandinavia).


Which do you prefer?
I don't believe in either or! :laughing:
But today Christkind is getting more and more forgotten as the media only shows Santa Claus. In fact, I seem to belong to the last generation which was raised with Christkind.

Maciamo
30-11-11, 22:48
I grew up calling him Santa, as far as I'm aware most folk in the UK do the same.
Most native English speakers have zero tolerance for learning other languages, they simply haven't made or are aware of the santa meaning.

The word Santa looks very similar to Saint. It doesn't take a genius to see that they are related. Besides, Americans have plenty of Spanish place names with Santa in it (Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, etc.). Britons are usually familiar with Spain, Portugal and Italy, which are all top holiday destinations. I am sorry but there is just no good excuse.

Maciamo
30-11-11, 22:50
Most Americans are protestants, but protestantism doesn't contain any Saints anyway, so the expression is senseless right from the beginning. I guess it's just a remnant of a past time long ago, and Americans of today don't know what they are talking about when they call Santa Claus "Santa".

Are you saying that being Protestant means that they have no idea what the word saint means ? It's like saying they don't know what the word rabbi means because they are not Jewish.

Mzungu mchagga
30-11-11, 23:25
Are you saying that being Protestant means that they have no idea what the word saint means ? It's like saying they don't know what the word rabbi means because they are not Jewish.

No, I simply say it doesn't make sense to call someone a saint when you actually don't believe in saints.
Back to the first question, they call him "Santa" because "Santa Claus" is too long and for simplification it's handled like a forename and surname!

Maciamo
01-12-11, 08:06
No, I simply say it doesn't make sense to call someone a saint when you actually don't believe in saints.
Back to the first question, they call him "Santa" because "Santa Claus" is too long and for simplification it's handled like a forename and surname!

I am a strong atheist, so I obviously don't believe in saints and don't even like Santa Claus because of its Christian association. Yet it bothers me when I hear people call the guy Santa because it's linguistically wrong and is just a sign of ignorance.

Mzungu mchagga
01-12-11, 16:59
I am a strong atheist, so I obviously don't believe in saints and don't even like Santa Claus because of its Christian association. Yet it bothers me when I hear people call the guy Santa because it's linguistically wrong and is just a sign of ignorance.

Err, when I wrote "you" I used it as a general form of address...
It was not directed at you personally!

Franco
05-12-11, 22:04
I guess that a religious person may feel offended when he hears "Santa" to name a marketing product that has nothing to do with true Saints. In USA even sacred things are desacralised and put in the market just like a sack of potatoes.

sparkey
05-12-11, 23:07
In USA even sacred things are desacralised and put in the market just like a sack of potatoes.

Just how I like them. :good_job:

Antigone
06-12-11, 07:19
I guess that a religious person may feel offended when he hears "Santa" to name a marketing product that has nothing to do with true Saints. In USA even sacred things are desacralised and put in the market just like a sack of potatoes.

That is only assuming that the English speaking world even know that Santa means Saint. But they honestly have no idea what the word means, and wouldn't care even if they were told. To them Santa is and has always been the jolly fat man who wears red pyjamas, nothing more and nothing less.

Maciamo
06-12-11, 10:21
I guess that a religious person may feel offended when he hears "Santa" to name a marketing product that has nothing to do with true Saints. In USA even sacred things are desacralised and put in the market just like a sack of potatoes.

But Santa Claus is a true (Catholic & Orthodox) saint. He is just a slightly modified* Nordic version of Saint Nicholas, a historic 4th-century Greek Bishop of Myra (in modern Turkey), and the patron saint of children.

* they got rid of the symbols of the catholic church, like the bishop attire and the crosier.

Antigone
08-12-11, 05:46
There is a vague awareness that Santa Claus is St Nicholas, or at least there was when I grew up. But I had a Catholic education and maybe that is where my knowledge of St Nicholas came from, I cannot remember and cannot say what other religions taught children.

Anyway, I think that any association between Santa Claus and St Nick died a long time ago in the English speaking world, and has been completely dominated by the commercial version of Santa. Religion (for the majority) doesn't really come into the equation at all now, except in the knowledge that Christmas is the day that the birth of Jesus is celebrated. Although it is probably debatable exactly how many would even know that much, in the US I think they would know but in England or Australia? Not many.

Maciamo
08-12-11, 08:59
There is a vague awareness that Santa Claus is St Nicholas, or at least there was when I grew up. But I had a Catholic education and maybe that is where my knowledge of St Nicholas came from, I cannot remember and cannot say what other religions taught children.

Anyway, I think that any association between Santa Claus and St Nick died a long time ago in the English speaking world, and has been completely dominated by the commercial version of Santa. Religion (for the majority) doesn't really come into the equation at all now, except in the knowledge that Christmas is the day that the birth of Jesus is celebrated. Although it is probably debatable exactly how many would even know that much, in the US I think they would know but in England or Australia? Not many.

I assumed that British (and Australian) people of Anglican or Catholic background would know about St Nicholas since Anglicans also have (basically the same) saints as Catholics.

About half the Australians have at least partial Irish ancestry, but the Irish seem to be the only European Catholics that don't celebrate St Nicholas' Day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas#Saint_Nicholas_Day). Even Orthodox in the Balkans celebrate it. Australia also has plenty of Southwest German (the wine makers), Italian and Greek immigrants who all should know about St Nicholas.

One may not believe in saints or all that Xmas crap, but contrarily to most Christian dogma/fairy tales, saints were real, living people who were beatificated by a pope. So St Nicholas/Saint Nicolas/San Nicola/Sankt Nikolaus/Santa Claus or whatever his name was a historical person, a citizen of the Roman Empire.

Max
12-12-11, 18:31
Santa sounds better than Claus anyway :P

himagain
30-01-12, 04:45
I am comforted by Maciamo's hair-splitting on this issue, as I do this myself quite a great deal. But I think also that Franco has a good point in his post on the topic.

Minty
05-02-12, 09:43
I think people are just lazy to say the whole name. We tend to shorten many of the words out there when we are talking casually, like veges instead of vegetables, bye instead of Good Bye, mum instead of mother and the list goes on...

Minty
05-02-12, 09:47
I assumed that British (and Australian) people of Anglican or Catholic background would know about St Nicholas since Anglicans also have (basically the same) saints as Catholics.

About half the Australians have at least partial Irish ancestry, but the Irish seem to be the only European Catholics that don't celebrate St Nicholas' Day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas#Saint_Nicholas_Day). Even Orthodox in the Balkans celebrate it. Australia also has plenty of Southwest German (the wine makers), Italian and Greek immigrants who all should know about St Nicholas.

One may not believe in saints or all that Xmas crap, but contrarily to most Christian dogma/fairy tales, saints were real, living people who were beatificated by a pope. So St Nicholas/Saint Nicolas/San Nicola/Sankt Nikolaus/Santa Claus or whatever his name was a historical person, a citizen of the Roman Empire.

Well I had a funny experience last year for Xmas, I said Santa Claus to a little girl, she didn't understand me looked at me all funny, until her granddad said Pere Noel, then it reminded me that was why she didn't understand!!!

Maciamo
05-02-12, 09:58
Well I had a funny experience last year for Xmas, I said Santa Claus to a little girl, she didn't understand me looked at me all funny, until her granddad said Pere Noel, then it reminded me that was why she didn't understand!!!

I confirm that French-speaking children have no idea who or what Santa Claus is (unless they are clever enough to guess a linguistic connection with Saint Nicolas, but it's unlikely unless they are from Alsace and speak German too).

Perséfone
05-02-12, 16:48
In spain we call him "Papá Noel". But i know the santa thing too, probably because we usually watch a lot of american films about christmas. lol

Maciamo
06-02-12, 11:07
In spain we call him "Papá Noel". But i know the santa thing too, probably because we usually watch a lot of american films about christmas. lol

Are those films in English. In France and Belgium everything in dubbed in French, so there is no exposure to English at all for children.

Nasturtium
11-02-12, 23:24
Expediency, ignorance, habit, Anglo Saxon tradition, laziness, or some other reason...a couple thoughts:

First, many American evangelicals seem to be distancing themselves from the whole Christmas/Santa thing either because they see it as a bastardization of a Christian holiday or because of the holiday's association with pre-Christian European "heathen" religions. Full disclosure, before I get crucified (no pun intended) I'm a secular agnostic at best, or possibly a heathen-curious atheist.

The second thought I had is that it may be due to "Claus" sounding a bit too Germanic. Remember, the Germans were the bad guys in the last 2 big wars (for Americans), and who knows? Americans can be pretty silly about such things...remember "freedom fries?" I know my great-grandmother always called herself Pennsylvania Dutch, which I assumed meant she was from Holland. Getting into genetic geneology, I discovered she was actually a first generation American, her parents born in Frankfurt. I think during the first and second world wars, many German American's distanced themselves out of necessity, and who knows, "Claus" may have been sacrificed for the same reason?

Just a couple thoughts...

willyjp
20-06-12, 06:56
As far as Halloween, the "holiday" has become totally secularized and it's meaning entirely forgotten in the US. At least amongst those who haven't been to Mexico for Dia de los Muertos. Once you've experienced that, the silly corruption of the holiday (which of course is just a contraction of "holy day") becomes clear. By the way, why do you Europeans (British at least)refer to "bank holidays?" Worship of money perhaps? (joke! ;-))

willyjp
20-06-12, 07:10
You could be right on about anything having a German flavor. The US underwent a profound "de-germanification" between 1915 and 1918, and folks in your home state of Wisconsin were affected as much as anyplace in the US. Germans made up the largest of all immigrant groups to the US from 1800--1900, and there were MANY places in the US where German was the everyday language of thousands....Milwaukie, Wisconsin being one of the foremost. Franciscan Friar Solanus Casey, a possible candidate for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church, grew up in an Irish family on the Wisconsin frontier of his day. When he failed German in the Benedictine Seminary in Milwaukie, he was ejected with the comment that "no one who couldn't speak fluent German should be a priest in Wisconsin." Fortunately for him, and for the Church, the Franciscans in Chicago took him in!

Once Germany went to war with Britain, even before the "Zimmerman Telegram" affair, it became VERY unfashionable to sound, act or be "German" in this country full of German immigrants and their descendants. It was a profound and rapid cultural shift. But the German-Americans did it very smoothly and they became the least "ethnic" sub-group (after the English, of course) in the Nation. Even to this day, people of German ancestry are probably the least likely to be aware of their national heritage!

JFWR
08-07-12, 08:53
The most obvious reason, even if this is a fairly old thread and so perhaps kind of useless, is the name "Santa Claus" seems to be composed of a first (Santa) and last (Claus) name. This is why Santa Claus' wife is called "Mrs. Claus".

It's sort of like Jesus Christ. Most people probably think that Christ is his last name, as "the" is rarely used in English for Jesus the Christ.

toyomotor
19-11-13, 03:55
I pretty much agree with Mzungu mchagga-Americans have so bastardised the English language, and corrupted history in movies and television programs that I guess many of them simply don't know what they're talking about. Unfortunately, via the same two media, their culture is spreading throughout the western world.

toyomotor
19-11-13, 03:59
@Maciamo:In Australia there is a pretty even split between people who use Santa Clause and Father Christmas. The former has only become popular over the past fifty years, due, I think, to the migrant influence and the influence of American TV programs.

Aberdeen
19-11-13, 04:14
The most obvious reason, even if this is a fairly old thread and so perhaps kind of useless, is the name "Santa Claus" seems to be composed of a first (Santa) and last (Claus) name. This is why Santa Claus' wife is called "Mrs. Claus".

It's sort of like Jesus Christ. Most people probably think that Christ is his last name, as "the" is rarely used in English for Jesus the Christ.

Actually, the word "santa" seems to be Spanish for "saint", as in Saint Claus (short for Nicolas). Wikipedia says:

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas), Father Christmas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_Christmas), Kris Kringle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kris_Kringle) and simply "Santa", is a figure with legendary (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legend), mythical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythology), historical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical) and folkloric (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folklore) origins who, in many western cultures (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_culture), is said to bring gifts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift) to the homes of the good children on the night before (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_Eve) Christmas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas), December 24. However in some European countries children receive their presents on St. Nicholas' Day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas_Day), December 6.[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus#cite_note-1) The modern figure of Santa Claus was derived from the Dutch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands) figure of Sinterklaas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas), which, in turn, was part of its basis in hagiographical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagiography) tales concerning the historical figure of Christian bishop (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop) and gift giver Saint Nicholas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas). During the Christianization (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianization) of Germanic Europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_Europe), this figure may have absorbed elements of the god Odin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin), who was associated with the Germanic pagan midwinter event of Yule (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule)and led the Wild Hunt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Hunt), a ghostly procession through the sky.

As for the Jesus example, when I was young, I thought that if Jesus was a real person, he must actually have been Hispanic. Later I found out that there were historic reasons why the Spanish version of "Joshua" came to be used all over Europe.

GarryJP
13-12-13, 14:11
I think American kids call him Santa just for fun, without thinking over the meaning of that. I also grew up calling him Santa.