A man Nicholas was born in Patara (Asia Minor) at some point between the year 260 A.D. and 280 A.D. He was a Christian priest and moved (around 300 A.D.) to Myra (Demre in modern Turkey), where he was elected bishop, the highest order of ministry, supervising a number of local churches and defending the faith.
Despite being quite young Nicholas had earned a reputation for kindliness and wisdom. One story is about a poor man who had no money to give to his three daughters on their wedding day. Nicholas dropped bags of gold into the stockings which the girls had left to dry by the fire. The sisters found the gold and ever since, children have hung up stockings on Christmas Eve hoping that they will be filled with presents by Christmas morning.
In 325 Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, the very first ecumenical council. More than 300 bishops came from all over the Christian world to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity. Arias, a Bishop from Egypt, was teaching that Jesus was not equal to God the Father.
As Arias continued to present his case, Nicholas became more and more upset. Finally, Nicholas outraged at the attack on an essential Christian belief could contain himself no longer. He got up, crossed the room, and slapped Arias in the face! The other bishops were shocked. Constantine, acknowledging that it was illegal for anyone to strike another in his presence, said that in this case, however, it was the bishops themselves who must determine the punishment. They decided to strip Nicholas of his bishop's garments, chain him, and throw him into jail. That way Nicholas would not participate in the rest of the meeting. So a shackled Nicholas was put into jail.