St. Nikolaus was born in Asia Minor (Greek Anatolia) in the year 270. He was the bishop of Myra, a poor and run-down diocese. When his wealthy parents died, he gave his wealth to the poor and devoted himself to the conversion of sinners.
Once he heard that a man who had become very poor intended to abandon his three daughters to prostitution because he could not afford a dowry for them to be married. On three occasions bishop Nikolaus threw a bag of coins through the window into the room of the sleeping father. His daughters soon were married.
This story and his many other works of charity led to the tradition of giving presents on Niklaus’ feast day and at Christmas in his name. The name Santa Claus, in fact, evolved from his name.
In 325, he was one of many bishops to answer the request of Constantine and appear at the First Council of Nicaea. There, Nikolaus was a staunch anti-Arian and defender of the Orthodox Christian position, and was one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed. Tradition has it that he became so angry with the heretic Arius during the Council of Nicea that he punched him in the face.
Niklaus died at Myra in 350. His popularity, already great, increased when his relics were brought to Bari, Italy, in 1087. Both the Eastern and Western churches honor him.
St. Niklaus is the patron saint of Russia, Greece, Apulia, Sicily, and Lorraine. He is regarded as the special patron of children. His Feast is December 6.