The original Santa Claus was based on a a rich monk who lived in a placed called Myra, which is now known as Turkey. St. Nicolas was actually the man who came up with the idea—not the man wearing the beard and red pajamas. The name is based on the Dutch nickname of Nicolas, “Sinter Klaas.”
In 1804, John Pintard, considered by many to be the father of modern Christmas, distributed wood cutouts of jolly old St. Nicolas at a meeting. The engraving consisted of a background depicting the contemporary image of Santa Claus with stockings filled with toys. Thus ushering in the image we now think of when we hear his name.