Saint Nicholas, a fourth century bishop, is the person behind the popular figure of Santa Claus.


Saint Nicholas (270 – 346), born into a wealthy Christian family became bishop in Myra (today in Turkey). He gained a reputation as a gift giver. One story tells that he secretly provided the dowries for a series of young women from poor families. Many miracles are attributed to his direct intervention during his lifetime and to his intercession after his death. His relics were transferred to Bari, Italy in 1087.

According to one story, Saint Nicholas spent four years in the Holy Land, living in the town of Beit Jala, whose main Orthodox church is named for him.

Over the centuries, the story of Saint Nicholas was transformed into the figure of Santa Claus, who distributes presents to children at Christmas.