WARNING: The remaining section of this blog post contains some big kid materials which may not be suited to younger readers!!! Duly noted?
Typically, I would explain St. Nicholas as "real" Santa. However, I did not want to place any of my students in a crisis of Santa faith. I mean, how could there be two "real" Santas? I also had little desire to attempt to explain this to second language learners if they should want to delve into existential issues of the being of two Mr. Clauses. Therefore, I elected to go with the more cryptic message.
I told them that St. Nicholas looked like Santa, acted like Santa, and was the basis for the name Santa without leading them to the obvious conclusion that he must have been the basis for the entire fabricated Santa world.
I also elected to leave out St. Nicholas's sidekick, who was literally called "Black Pete", a man that followed St. Nicholas around and kidnapped all of the bad children from their parents. Was that supposed to teach them a lesson? How are the bad children meant to improve upon their mistakes? Were they issued some sort of warning in June or July informing them of their upcoming kidnapping should they refuse to turn their temper tantrums around? I see a lot of holes in this legend.
My students seemed to enjoy the day of chocolate-y goodness and most managed to leave before asking too many questions . . . Merry Christmas and Happy St. Nicholas Day, students! From Santa . . . cough, I mean, St. Nicholas!