St. Nicholas, an early bishop of Myra in Lycia, Asia Minor. He is a popular saint in the Roman and the Greek churches. His feast day, falling on Dec. 6, was once elaborately celebrated in English public schools, the solemnities continuing to Dec. 29. It has long been a custom in certain European countries to keep St. Nicholas' Eve by placing gifts in the shoes or stockings of children. This custom has been transferred to Christmas Eve and the transformed saint is known as Santa Claus (from the Dutch Sant Nicolaus).
Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia