Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of many things and people. He is the national saint of Russia and Greece, and thousands of churches are named after him. He is known as the friend and protector of all those in trouble.
Saint Nicholas was born about 500 km from Bethlehem in the fourth century. He became the bishop of Myra, near the coast of what is now Turkey. There are many stories of his love for children, his kindness and his miracles.
Perhaps the most famous story of all tells of his help for three unfortunate young sisters who all had suitors but had no dowries because their father, a poor man, had little money. So they could not marry.
The bishop Nicholas was a shy man and did not like to give money directly, so he thought of a way to give it anonymously. When the first daughter was ready to marry, the good bishop threw gold coins into the house at night. Later, when the second daughter prepared to marry, she also received a mysterious gift of gold coins. When the third daughter prepared to marry, the poor father was determined to find out who was so generous. So he kept watch and saw the bishop drop more gold into the house. From then on, whenever anyone received an unexpected gift, they thanked Nicholas.
It has been said that Saint Nicholas climbed on the roof and dropped the gold coins down the chimney where they landed in a stocking hung to dry. This is why we hang Christmas stockings today.