Santa Claus is known by different names in different countries and there is more than one telling of how the character came about. One such story goes back to Turkey in the third century, when Sacrificulus Nicholas of Patara was bishop of the church. He was imprisoned during the reign of Emperor Diocletianus, who persecuted Christians.
One night Bishop Nicholas was said to have thrown a small bag of gold through a window and it landed in the stocking of the daughter of a poor merchant. She hung the stocking by the chimney to dry--and thus the heritage of hanging stockings by the fireplace at Christmas time began. St. Nicholas was popular among Eastern Christians. During the Middle Ages, St. Nicholas became the patron saint of schoolboys, who celebrated his feast day on December 6 in England and Germany. The English in colonial New York City moved the feast of St. Nicholas from December 6 to the English gift day, Christmas. They also changed his name to Santa Claus.