Mark Driscoll writes the story of Saint Nicholas at TheResurgence:
Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He was born into an affluent family, but his parents died tragically when he was quite young. His parents had raised him to be a devout Christian, which led him to spend his great inheritance on helping the poor, especially children. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and gifts.Another legend about Nicholas that I just love is that the good bishop got so angry at the heretic Arius at the Council of Nicea that he punched Arius in the nose. Good for Nicholas!
Perhaps his most famous act of kindness was helping three sisters. Because their family was too poor to pay for their wedding dowry, three young Christian women were facing a life of prostitution until Nicholas paid their dowry, thereby saving them from a horrible life of sexual slavery.
Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra, a port city that the apostle Paul had previously visited (Acts 27:5-6). Nicholas reportedly also traveled to the legendary Council of Nicea, where he helped defend the deity of Jesus Christ in AD 325.
Following his death on December 6, 343, he was canonized as a Saint. The anniversary of his death became the St. Nicholas holiday when gifts were given in his memory. He remained a very popular saint among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, with some 2,000 churches named after him. The holiday in his honor eventually merged with Christmas as they were celebrated within weeks of one another.