Who is Santa Claus, Really?
St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who is the basis for the popular character of Santa Claus.
St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who helped the needy. After his death, the legend of his gift-giving grew and he was transformed into the legendary character called Santa Claus, who brings Christmas presents to children around the world.
St. Nicholas was born circa 280 in Patara, Lycia, an area that is part of present-day Turkey. He lost both of his parents as a young man and reportedly used his inheritance to help the poor and sick. A devout Christian, he later served as bishop of Myra, a city that is now called Demre.
There are many legends about St. Nicholas of Myra. One story tells how he helped three poor sisters. Their father did not have enough money to pay their dowries and thought of selling them into servitude. Three times, St. Nicholas secretly went to their house at night and put a bag of money inside. The man used the money so that one of his daughters could marry. On the third visit, the man saw St. Nicholas and thanked him for his kindness.
Over the years, stories of his miracles and work for the poor spread to other parts of the world. He became known as the protector of children and sailors and was associated with gift-giving. St. Nicholas, however, remained an important figure in Holland. Dutch immigrants brought the legend of St. Nicholas, known to them as Sint Nikolaas or by his nickname, Sinterklaas, to America in the 1700s.
Sinterklaas became Santa Claus and he became the character of the Christmas holiday. In a poem written by C.C.Moore in 1820, he is described as a jolly, heavy man who comes down the chimney to leave presents for deserving children and drives a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. The cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the St. Nicholas legend with an 1881 drawing of Santa as wearing a red suit with white fur trim. Once a kind, charitable bishop, St. Nicholas had become the Santa Claus we know today
-> Source: Biography.com