St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth centuryAD in a place called Myra in Asia Minor - now called Turkey. He was a very rich man becuase his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it. There are several legends about St. Nicholas, although we don’t know if any of them are true!
The most famous story tells how the custom of hanging up stockings to get presents first started……
There was a poor man who had three daughters. He did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn’t get married. One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house. The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later for the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping the bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man not to tell anyone what he had done, becuase he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.
Becuase of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint - he is not only a saint of children, but a saint of sailors! One story tells of him helping sailors that were caught in a dreadful storm off the coast of Turkey. The storm was raging around them and all the men were terrified that their ship would sink. They prayed to St. Nicholas to help them. Suddenly he was standing on the deck before them. He ordered the sea to calm, the storm died away, and they were able to sail their ship safely to port.
St Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. No one really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either 345 or 352 AD. In 1087, his bones were stolen from Turkey by some Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Chrch named after him in the Italian port of Bari. On St Nicholas feast day (6th December) the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathedral out to sea, so that he can bless the waters and so give them safe voyages throughout the year.