Born around 280 in Patara, Lycia, part of present-day Turkey, St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop of Myra who served the poor and needy. He served as the prototype for the modern-day Santa Claus.
Nicholas grew up in the Greek culture, the only son of wealthy parents who died when Nicholas was young. In 325, he attended the First Council of Nicaea and was one of the signers of the Nicene Creed.
Many stories exist about St. Nicholas, but it is known that he championed the poor and the sick during his life. This beneficence made him a beloved saint to many and the patron saint of several harbors. He died in 343.
Because of his generosity, he also became the model for Santa Claus, the legendary man who brings toys to children on Christmas. This practice began with the Dutch and later spread to America.