I was reading one of my friends blogs, Fear the AoD, and he spoke of a kindly gentleman who resembled Santa Claus. In his post he spoke of our ideas of Santa and how he is the spirit of giving. It got me to thinking, why is he so iconic? So I did some research.
Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for Santa Claus. He was the bishop of Myra in Lycia, who was famous for his gifts to the poor. He believed in "sell what you own and give the money to the poor". He dedicated his life to spending his inheritance to helping those in need. One of the more famous stories of Saint Nicholas is about a poor man and his three daughters. They needed a dowry to be able to marry, but they had nothing and were destined to be sold into slavery. On three different nights a bag of gold appeared in the stockings hung by the fire to dry. Sometimes the story says it was three balls of gold, which are now represented by oranges.
Saint Nicholas is also known as the patron saint of sailors. One story tells that he visited the holy land to walk where Jesus walked, and on his return trip a horrible storm threatened to sink them. He calmly prayed, and to the amazement of the sailors the winds died down.
There is also an interesting story that takes place long after his death. Townspeople of Myra were celebrating Saint Nicholas and on the eve of the feast day Arab pirates come and steal the treasures of the saint. On there way out of town they kidnap a young boy and force him to serve as a cup bearer to their king. For a year he was his servant, but on the next eve of Saint Nicholas he is whisked away and taken back to his family by Saint Nicholas himself.
Another interesting tidbit, is that Saint Nicholas was apart of the first Council of Nicaea, which gave us our first uniform Christian doctrine.
If you'd like to find out more interesting facts about Santa, you can go here, which is where I got most of my information.