Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker was born in the third century in a region of Southwestern Asia Minor known as Lycia (present day Turkey). His wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nonna, raised him to be a devout Christian, but died from an epidemic when he was still young. However, never straying from his parents' instruction and the teachings of Jesus Christ, Nicholas dedicated his life to caring for the poor.
With the help of his uncle, Archbishop Nicholas, the younger Nicholas was tonsured a Reader in the Orthodox Church, and was later ordained a priest. Around 317, he was ordaind Bishop of his hometown Myra. During his ministry, Nicholas fervently kept vigils, became a pillar of prayer and fasting, and quickly gained notoriety for the amazing miracles he routinely performed. Yet, the virtue that he is most widely remembered for was that of almsgiving. Nicholas understood that all the wealth he had inherited was a gift from God, that was to be shared with those less fortunate. He regarded his possessions as actually belonging to the poor, and that he was merely acting as the steward charged with distributing it where it was needed the most. On top of it all, he made sure to keep his incredible generosity a secret, yet despite his best attempts, word quickly spread throughout the region. This widespread fame that his life attracted eventually became the basis for today's concept of the mythical "Santa Claus."
As Bishop, he served for many years as a shepherd for the flock of Christ, and a friend of man. There was no misfortune that would not move him to compassion; nor was there any evil that he would not eradicate. His wisdom and clarity even helped preserve the Truth of the Orthodox Faith against the heresy of Arianism, which he helped overcome at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 325 AD. Wherever he happened to be, radiant peace and transcendent grace were instantly recognizable.
Many decades later he fell asleep in peace at an old age. His holy relics were placed in a church built in his honor and memory in Myra, but were eventually transferred in 1087 AD to Bari, Italy where they remain to this day.