Now if only I could bring myself to dispel the Santa Claus myth with my kids. They're still so young...but my oldest is already asking way too many intelligent questions about the connection between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus...
I used to think there was one. (I.e., Santa Claus = St. Nicholas.) Now, I'm not so sure.
I just read a book -- Religious Customs in the Family
, by Fr. Francis X. Weiser, S.J., (c) 1956, publ. by TAN Books -- in which Fr. Weiser explains that there really is no direct connexion between Santa Claus & St. Nick; that Santa Claus is actually based on the Germanic/Norse god Odin.
(I always thought Santa Claus was a corruption of Saint Nicholas. "Claus" is a German nickname for "Nicholas", and "Santa" is obviously some Romance language form of "Saint". Although, come to think of it, if a German were going to render it, it would be Sankt Claus, not Santa Claus.)
Anyhow, Fr. Weiser says that the Dutch brought the 5 December "visit of St. Nicholas" (whom they call "Sinter Klaas") celebation to New Amsterdam (later, New York) when they colonised the area. When the (...Protestant) English took over the colony, they liked the idea of the celebration, but not the obviously Catholic meaning. So, they simply moved the celebration to Christmas and transformed the central character into a cleverly-disguised version of Odin.
Apparently, Odin resembled a kindly old man who flew around in the sky in a cart drawn by a couple of goats, helping humanity by fighting off snow giants (I always thought he flung a hammer at them...), visiting houses by sliding down the chimney, then flying back to his palace in the icebergs somewhere in the frozen north.
I'm not sure I buy it, but it does look kind of suspicious.
Anyway, Fr. Weiser goes on to suggest a solution: have your kids write letters to or ask Our Lord Jesus Christ for their Christmas gifts and have Santa Claus be the delivery-boy. No, I'm not making that up.
It does have the benefit of being original...