The modern image of Santa Claus is a combination of stories from Washington Irving and Clement Clarke Moore, the latter of whom wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in 1822. However, the origins of Santa Claus date back to 280 A.D. and a Christian saint named Nicholas.
The original St. Nicholas was a Greek man residing in a small Roman settlement called Myra, in what would later become Turkey. He was known as the patron saint of children, among many other diverse groups. Over time, the qualities of several European pagan deities, such as Saturn and Odin, both white-bearded men who possessed magical powers, were attributed to St. Nicholas. The stories evolved over time, each adding new characteristics to the figure of St. Nicholas.
Later changes to St. Nicholas' name, most specifically in the Netherlands, saw Saint Nicholas become "Sinterklaas." From there, Sinterklaas became two separate names, and was further Anglicized into Santa Claus as he would become known. Many different regional traditions were added throughout the centuries to make up the jolly, red-clad, portly mascot of modern Christmas celebrations. However, the origins of the Santa Claus myth rest largely with a real life figure who was often known for bringing gifts to children.