In the 4th century, St. Nicholas brought small gifts, such as nuts, on December 6. St. Nicholas lived in the Turkish city of Myra in the 4th century and is a saint of all Christianity. There are many legends about him, according to which he gave away a lot and could also work miracles. He is believed to be the origin of Christmas gift-giving. St. Nicholas was also assigned an educational role. When he comes to the children on 6 December, in addition to the jute sack with the nuts, gingerbread and fruit, he always has a rod with him and is accompanied by the black Schmutzli (Knecht Ruprecht), whom the children fear so much. So the first question is always: "Have you been good this year"? Then the good and bad deeds are read out and the children promise to always be good in the future. We all know from our own experience that these promises are soon forgotten.
It was not until the 16th century that the custom of gift-giving developed, not only on St. Nicholas Day but also at Christmas. Martin Luther changed the custom of giving presents on St. Nicholas' Day, which had previously also been customary in his house, to Christmas Eve, as the Protestant Church did not know any veneration of saints. The gift bringer was now no longer Saint Nicholas, but the "Holy Christian". From this the Christ Child developed in some places.
In 1930, according to the German Atlas of Folklore, Santa Claus (in the Protestant north and northeast) and the Christ Child (in the west and south and in Silesia) brought the gifts. In the 18th century, St. Nicholas brought the presents in Catholic areas and the Christ Child in Protestant regions. However, Christmas and the Christ Child became more and more popular and outranked St. Nicholas. Thus, the Christ Child was also adopted by the Catholics and the gift-giving was moved to Christmas Eve.
In many countries, however, the gift-giving figures are not St. Nicholas or the Christ Child, but Santa Claus, who was brought to America by the Dutch as "Sinterklaas" and there became more and more Santa Claus in today's form. In Holland, St. Nicholas still brings the presents on December 6, and in Spain, for example, the gifts are given on January 6, Epiphany.