from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas :

He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose English name comes from the German Sankt Niklaus. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as is common for early Christian saints.2 In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nicholas of Bari

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