Nicholas was born in Asia Minor in the Roman Empire, to a Greek familyduring the third century in the city of Patara (Lycia et Pamphylia),a port on the Mediterranean Sea.He lived in Myra, Lycia (part of modern-day Demre), at a time when the region was Greek in its heritage,culture, and outlook and politically part of the Roman diocese of Asia.He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents named Epiphanius (Ἐπιφάνιος, Epiphánios) and Johanna (Ἰωάννα, Iōánna) according to some accounts and Theophanes (Θεοφάνης, Theophánēs) and Nonna (Νόννα, Nónna) according to others.He was very religious from an early age and according to legend, Nicholas was said to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara. He tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader and later ordained him a presbyter (priest).In the year AD 305, several monks from Anatolia in Asia Minor came to the Holy Land to Beit Jala, Judea and established a small monastery with a church named in honor of the Great Martyr George (Saint George). This was before St. Sava’s Monastery was founded in the desert east of Bethlehem on the Kidron Gorge near the Dead Sea. These monks lived on the mountain overlooking Bethlehem in a few caves. In the years 312–315, St. Nicholas lived there and came as a pilgrim to visit the Holy Sepulchre, Golgotha, Bethlehem, and many other sites in the Holy Land. The Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is located on the site of his cave in Beit Jala where today there are innumerable stories about Nicholas still handed down from generation to generation. A text written in his own hand is still in the care of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. In 317 he returned to Asia Minor and was soon thereafter consecrated bishop in Myra.In 325, he was one of many bishops to answer the request of Constantine and appear at the First Council of Nicaea; the 151st attendee was listed as “Nicholas of Myra of Lycia”.There, Nicholas was a staunch anti-Arian, defender of the Orthodox Christian position, and one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed.Tradition has it that he became so angry with the heretic Arius during the Council that he struck him in the face.
St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey). He was a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it. There are several legends about St. Nicholas, although we don’t know if any of them are true!
There was a poor man who had three daughters. He was so poor, he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn’t get married. (A dowry is a sum of money paid to the bridegroom by the brides parents on the wedding day. This still happens in some countries, even today.) One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house (This meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married.). The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping in a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.
Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint. St. Nicholas is not only the saint of children but also of sailors! One story tells of him helping some sailors that were caught in a dreadful storm off the coast of Turkey. The storm was raging around them and all the men were terrified that their ship would sink beneath the giant waves. They prayed to St. Nicholas to help them. Suddenly, he was standing on the deck before them. He ordered the sea to be calm, the storm died away, and they were able to sail their ship safely to port.
St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. No one is really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either 345 or 352. In 1087, his bones were stolen from Turkey by some Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari. On St. Nicholas feast day (6th December), the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathedral out to sea, so that he can bless the waters and so give them safe voyages throughout the year.
In 1066, before he set sail to England, William the Conqueror prayed to St. Nicholas asking that his conquest would go well.