You don’t have to believe in Santa Claus to believe that St. Nicholas, a well-known fourth-century bishop is the real-life model for the more modern Santa. Nicholas was born to wealthy parents in the village of Patara, which at the time was Greek, but is now part of Turkey. Even as a young boy, he was devout in his Christian beliefs and remained so his entire life.
After his parents died in an epidemic, Nicholas developed
a reputation for his generosity as he used his inheritance
to attend to the sick and the poor and to distribute small gifts to children and other villagers. Additionally, many miracles were attributed to him and as his fame and reputation grew, he was, by popular consent, acclaimed
a saint. Hundreds of churches have been built and named
in his honor across the globe.
During the Middle Ages, he became an extremely popular figure, but was largely forgotten in Europe after the Reformation. His memory was kept alive, however, in Holland where he became known as Sinterklass. Eventually, the Dutch brought their traditions to New Amsterdam (New York City) where Sinterklass became known as Santa Claus.
Today, St. Nicholas is celebrated on December 6 all around the world, and in many countries is still the main giver of gifts to children and those in need. In many countries, especially Europe, children still put out their shoes before going to bed on the evening of the 5th to find them filled the next morning with small gifts and treats.
St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, fishermen, merchants, children, students and others in various countries.