St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, was born in Panthera in the province of Lycia, in Asia Minor in 326 A.D. Everyone knows the story of the poor merchant who had three daughters, and not enough money to marry them off. Rather than see the daughters sacrificed to "an infamous life," St. Nicholas went to their house on three successive nights, throwing a small bundle of gold into the moonlit window of the house each time as dowries for the daughters. On the third night, the poor merchant waited for him, however. Catching the good saint in the act, the merchant thanked him for his good deed, promising never to reveal who had done this favor. But the fact that this is St. Nicholas' best-known act of charity indicates that someone must have told...
There is another, more bizarre story, however, connected to St. Nicholas. It takes place in Palestine, during the time of a terrible famine. Here, in the words of Anna Jameson, is the tale:
"As he was travelling through his diocese to visit and comfort his people, he lodged in the house of a certain host who was a son of Satan. This man, in the scarcity of provisions, was accustomed to steal little children, whom he murdered, and served up their limbs as meat to his guests. On the arrival of the bishop and his retinue, he had the audacity to serve up the dismembered limbs of these unhappy children before the man of God, who had no sooner cast his eyes on them than he was aware of the fraud. He reproached the host with his abominable crime, and going to the tub where their remains were salted down, he made over them the sign of the cross, and they rose up whole and well. The people who witnessed this great wonder were struck with astonishment (as indeed, they might well be), and the three children, who were the sons of a poor widow, were restored to their weeping mother."
And so here is another reason that St. Nicholas became the patron saint of children, and the precursor of our modern day Santa Claus.
From Anna Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art (1891), a great source of odd legends pertaining to the lives of the Christian saints.