The image we see of a chubby man with a long white beard, and a red suit is a creation of some folks imagination. There was indeed a real St. Nicholas. He was St. Nicholas of Myra who lived in the area that is now modern day Turkey. He was born in the 3rd century to a very wealthy family.
After his parents died he used his inheritance to help the needy. One story says a man with 3 daughters had no money and was going to have to sell his daughters into prostitution. St. Nick heard of this and that night threw bags of gold in the girls room so that they weren’t sold to the brothel. He was a man of conviction and righteousness, when Emperor Diocletian took over Rome he persecuted Christians. St. Nick was tortured because he would not denounce Jesus. He died on December 6 343 AD and this is his feast day. This day is very popular in many nations and is called St. Nicholas Day. In Germany, children would put a boot, called Nikolaus Stiefel, outside their front door in hopes of St. Nick filling it with gifts or if they had been bad they would get a lump of coal. Sound familiar?