Around 300 AD, there was a bishop named Nicolas in the small seaside town of Myra, in
what was the Byzantine empire, now Turkey. He was noted for his generosity and love of people. He used his wealth to secretly give to those who were in need on his parish. No one knew where these gifts of money, clothes and other things were coming from. They simply were thankful and thanked God for answering their prayers. The most famous incident of Nicolas’ giving was the bestowing of dowries for the 3 daughters of a family that couldn’t afford them. He tossed bags of money down the chimney into the house. He was soon found out by the father of the family, though, and Nicolas swore him to secrecy. When Nicolas passed away, his secret came out and the entire town continued the charity he had begun. When someone received an anonymous gift, they would say it must be from Nicolas. Nicolas came to be regarded as a saint after his death, earning the name Saint Nicolas. Many Italian sailors would frequent the tiny town of Myra and they soon picked up on the Greeks’ custom of secret charity of St. Nicolas. The tale spread quickly, reaching Germany where Saint Nicolas was translated to Sankt Nikolaus. Then, the tradition quickly stretched to Holland, where Sankt Nikolaus turned into Sinterklaas in Dutch. Then, the Dutch brought their tradition of Sinterklaas to the new world as they settled in America. When the English learned of this ritual, they also celebrated it, but with their translation of the Saint’s name: Santa Claus.