US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Santa vs. St. Nick

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There seems to be a movement to reclaim the celebration of St. Nicholas Day.

A German Catholic aid organization made news well before the holiday season by calling for “Santa Claus-free zones,” Reuters reports. Santa is “an invention of the advertising industry” and “a representative of consumer society,” according to Bonifatiuswerk der deutschen Katholiken, which seeks to restore St. Nicholas to his proper place in the Christmas season.

William Bennett doesn’t want to replace Santa Claus, but he writes in The True St. Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas (Howard Books, 2009) that “St. Nicholas makes Santa Claus a larger and richer figure than you might expect him to be.”

A Greek bishop living from 270 to 346, St. Nicholas is loved in many cultures as a miracle worker and gift giver. He remains elusive even to historians, Bennett says, but what we know of him can “deepen the spirit of Christmas.”

The St. Nicholas Center aims to spread knowledge of the saint with its website,, which shares traditions from around the world for celebrating the bishop’s feast day on December 6, such as leaving shoes out to collect small gifts. St. Nicholas is said to have left coins in shoes left out for him at night.

Do you celebrate St. Nick's Day or do you just prefer Santa?