There really was a St. Nicholas, and in a way he is pictured very much like the modern day Santa Claus. The real St. Nick was a very kind and generous man who gave away all of his money to the poor, often anonymously.
One of the most often told stories is of a poor man who had 3 daughters and no money to pay a dowry for any of them. Because they had no money for dowries, the daughters could not marry. St. Nicholas is reported to have thrown bags of gold secretly into the poor man’s window in the middle of the night so that each of the man’s daughters could afford to get married. The bags of gold were said to have landed in the girls’ socks or shoes set out by the fireplace to dry. That led to the custom of putting out stockings by the fireplace for St. Nicholas to fill.
There are many more wonderful stories about this Saint who was a man of great faith as well as great generosity. Although St. Nicholas was kind, he was no pushover. Because he refused to deny his love for Christ, he was thrown into prison and spent 10 years there before being released. He was also made a Bishop of Myra and helped to create the Nicene Creed — a statement of faith professed by Catholics all over the world even today.
One of the most popular Saints in history, the spirit of St. Nicholas lives on today in the generosity of others.
Here are a few links that will tell you more about the Saint behind Santa Claus: