There is a story told about a nobleman who had somehow managed to lose his fortune. He had three daughters who were coming of marrying age and I guess back then they needed a dowry to get a man. Some stories say that one of the girls was going to be sold into slavery to support the others. Nicholas was still trying to get rid of his burdensome inheritance so one night he snuck over with three bags full of gold for the dowries of the three sisters and dropped them through an open window. Some say that they fell into the girls' shoes so it became a tradition in many Eurorean countries to put shoes out on the eve of St. Nicholas Day. Some say the bags fell into their stockings and that is where our tradition comes from.
Because of these three gifts St. Nicholas was sometimes drawn holding three bags of gold or three gold balls. When the bankers of Northern Italy took Nicholas as their Patron Saint they started hanging three gold balls over their doors, reminiscent of these three gifts. Since pawn brokers were also money lenders, they started using this sign and continue to do so today.
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