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St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century AD in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey). He was a very rich man because 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 a number of legends about St Nicholas although we do not know how true they are. Perhaps the most famous legend helps to explain our tradition of hanging a stocking on Christmas Eve.There was a man who had three daughters. He was so poor that he was unable to offer a dowry and so his daughters were unable to find suitable husbands. Nicholas was such a kind man that he secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney at night. The oldest daughter had just hung her stockings by the fire to dry, and the gold fell into them. She was then able to marry. Nicholas repeated this until all three daughters were able to marry. After the second gift, the father had been determined to find out who the kind gift giver was. He had waited by the fire each evening until the third bag of gold came.

He rushed out and found Nicholas who begged the man not to tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. However, the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.
Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint. He was also made the Saint of sailors. St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution of his Emperor, Diocletian. No one really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either 345 or 352 AD. In 1807, some Italian sailors stole his bones from Turkey. The bones are now kept in a Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari. On St. Nicholas' feast day (6th December), the sailors of Bari still carry his statue out to sea, so that he can bless the waters and give them safe voyages through the forthcoming year.
How St Nicholas Became Santa
St. Nicholas' traditionally rode a white horse. It is not clear how this white horse became a sleigh and reindeer. Victorian books have pictures of Santa in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. There was a poem written in 1882 that gives the reindeer their names. It was 'A visit from St. Nicholas' and was written by Dr Clement Moore. You may well know the poem better as 'Twas the night before Christmas'. The song 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' which was written in 1949, made the Reindeer household names.

Children all over the world wait for Santa to bring their gifts on Christmas Eve. They hang up their stockings and go to bed with eyes that sparkle with excitement. In the morning, they wake knowing that the little fat man with the long white beard will have stopped by their house and left presents from his magical sack.