Little is known historically of the life of Nicholas. He is known to have been archbishop of Myra and may have participated in the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. — In addition to being honored as the patron saint of many countries, notably Greece and Russia, and of cities, of which he is the patron of many occupations, most notably of sea-farers. St. Nicholas is commemorated by both Eastern and Western Christianity on December 6, but also on May 9 (the transfer of his relics) and on July 29 (his nativity).

In time, his fame in northern Europe as a saintly bishop began changing to that of a giver of gifts to children, usually occurring on December 6. As immigrants from the Germanic and Nordic lands settled in the United States, the image of St. Nicholas, or “Sinterklaas”, as he is known among the Dutch, slowly changed to that of “Santa Claus” with little tie to Christian spirituality.