He was a fourth-Century bishop of the Catholic church. Not much is known for sure of his life, but there are a number of legends about him. There is the one about the three poor girls who were about to be sold into prostitution because their father had no money for their dowries. St. Nicholas took money from his own inheritance and threw it in a window of the poor family’s house, so that enough money for dowries for all the girls was provided.
Another cool story was that Nicholas was at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and slapped the arch-heretic Arius in the face. He lost his bishop’s office and was thrown in jail for that, but the legend says that the Blessed Mother got him out of that one, and he was restored to his former position.
Today is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, December 6th. In some European countries the custom is to put out the Christmas stocking on the eve of Saint Nicholas day, and he will fill them by morning. Some say with candy, some say with slapped heretics. My mother told me that story (minus the heretics) because even though her family was Protestant, they still celebrated Saint Nicholas day.
I think that the modern Christmas celebrations as ordered by retailers can be too overwhelming to children— two to three months of constant jingle bells and anticipation— and I think the cure is to dial back, turn off the TV, and celebrate the old Christian traditions for the last three months of the year— All Hallows Eve (Halloween) and All Saints, Advent, Saint Nicholas Day, and, only after we’ve done Advent a bit, do Christmas (all 12 days of it) and Epiphany. (Epiphany is not just the large Black woman on General Hospital, it’s also a Church holiday. Trust me.)
More info on Saint Nicholas.
What is a heretic?
A heretic is defined as a person who once professed the true Christian faith, but who went astray and began teaching false doctrines. So a person who was born into a Protestant church or into a sect is not a heretic in the eyes of the church. Just the folks who once knew the truth but went against it.