How did St Nicholas become Santa?

In a comment (Who is Santa?) Kouta asks a very good question: how did Saint Nicholas become Santa?

Not much is known about Saint Nicholas. It is not known when he was born, though it is believed that he died on December 6th 342, living most of his life in a city called Myra in southern Turkey. Here is a picture of him, but it was drawn a long time after his death.


Saint Nicholas must have been a very popular person. Centuries after his death people were still telling stories about him, and it is these stories that we hear today. Are the stories true? Maybe, maybe not, but Saint Nicholas was surely a very good and kind person, since so many people happily remembered him.

One story is about three sisters who were very poor, and their parents didn’t have enough money for the daughters to get married (every girl needed money to pay for the wedding and a new house). Nicholas heard about this and secretly tried to help the sisters. So he climbed on the roof and threw three bags of gold money down the chimney. By chance one of the bags fell into a stocking that one of the girls had hung to dry. But the father saw Nicholas and told everyone, and Nicholas was greatly loved. From this time it is said that Nicholas started to walk along the streets on Christmas Eve giving presents to all good children.

These are some of the things that Santa Claus does today.

Whether this story is true or not no-one really knows. History and legend often mix together and I guess that has happened in this case. Nevertheless Saint Nicholas is one of the most loved of Christian saints; there are more than 1,200 churches named St Nicholas’ Church, and his feast day on December 6th is still celebrated by many Christians.

One thought on “How did St Nicholas become Santa?

  1. Thank you for answering my quetion.

    I understand why santa gives present to children.

    By the way ,although most japanese people are not Chrisitian, why do they celebrate Xmas ?

    I think we are caught in the trap of toy companies and department stores.


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