Saint Nicholas of Myra of Lycia, Asia Minor was a 4th century Bishop, called the wonderworker for the many wonderful acts of helping his fellow men, and for the miracles he performed. His feast day is December 6, the date of his death. When Myra and Byzantium were overtaken by Islamic invaders, the remains of Bishop Nicholas were brought to Bari in Italy on May 9, 1087. Some observers have reported seeing oil exude from these relics.
Saint Nikolaus or St. Nicolas is celebrated in European countries and in Germany children put a boot outside the front doors on the night from the 5th to the 6th of December. St Nikolaus fills the boot, called Nikolaus Stiefel with goodies, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good. If they were not, they will have charcoal in their boots instead.
His reputation for gift giving comes from a story of three young women who were too poor to afford a dowry for their marriages: as each reached a marriagable age, Nicholas surreptitiously threw a bag of gold into the house at night. Some versions of the legend say that the girls father, trying to discover their benefactor, kept watch on the third occasion, but Nichiolas dropped the third bag down the chimney instead. For his helping the "financially challenged", St Nicholas is the patron saint of pawnbrokers; the three gold balls traditionally hung outside a pawnshop are symbolic of the three sacks of gold.
The German-American Thomas Nast and other immigrants popularized their "Saint Nicholas" and other Christmas traditions in America. The tall skinny European St. Nicholas gradually became a fat, jolly, red cheeked old man, with a contracted version of "Saint Nicolas" as his name: Santa Claus.