Today (Dec. 6) is the feast day of St. Nicholas. Jolly Old St. Nick, or Santa Claus, was a Greek bishop who lived in Myra, Lycia, and was known for great charity -- but his charity was made possible thanks to the wealth of his parents which he inherited at a young age when they died. From Eugene Peterson's essay in "God with us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas":
Nicholas is most well known in the West as the beloved patron saint of children and gift-giving. His connection to the American character of Santa Claus is faint, but it can be traced. According to tradition, Nicholas' parents died when he was young, leaving him a large sum of money. With his inheritance, Nicholas practiced charity, helping those in need.