The Santa Claus we know today is based on a real person.
Saint Nicholas was born in the year 280 in Patara. This small Roman town was in an area that is now part of Turkey.
Both of his parents died when Nicholas was young. They left him some money, which he used to help the poor and the sick. Like his parents, Nicholas was a religious Christian. He became a bishop and devoted his life to helping others.
There are many legends about St. Nicholas. It is said that he helped three sisters by secretly going to their house at night, leaving bags of money for them so that they could marry. He helped sailors, people who were wrongly sent to jail, and gave gifts to poor children.
St. Nicholas died on December 6 in the year 343. Since then, many countries celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6. It became an important holiday in The Netherlands where children would put out their shoes and expect St. Nicholas to leave gifts in them.
The Dutch referred to "Sint Nikolaas" as "Sinterklaas." Sound familiar? It was the Dutch who brought Sinterklaas to America in the 1700's. By the mid 1800's, Sinterklaas became Santa Claus, and the secret night-time gift-giving started by St. Nicholas seventeen hundred years before became part of the Christmas holiday.