Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas (270-310) was at one time bishop of Myra, a town in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He is supposed to have died on December 6 which is why his feast is celebrated on that date. Recognized for his great generosity, he is the patron saint of little children and school children.
The feast of Saint Nicholas was abolished in some European countries after the Protestant reformation of the XVIth century. The Dutch, however, have preserved this ancient Catholic custom, and small Dutch children still await the visit of Sinter Klaas (Saint Nicholas) on the night of December 6.

At the beginning of the XVIIth century, the Dutch emigrated to the United States and founded the colony of New Amsterdam which, in 1664, became New York. Over several decades, the Dutch custom of commemorating the feast of Saint Nicholas spread to the United States. Sinter Klaas quickly became Santa Claus for Americans..

This thoughtful philanthropist, depicted as an old man in a white beard with a long caped coat or sometimes even in episcopal robes, remained, nonetheless, a moralistic figure. He rewarded deserving children and punished the difficult and unruly ones.

After several decades, Christian society found it more appropriate to bring this "children’s festival" closer to that of the Infant Jesus. Saint Nicholas henceforth made his rounds of Christian families during the night of December 24.