03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Yes Virginia, There Really Is a Santa Claus

Did you ever wonder the history behind the man in the red and white suit?

The American version of Santa Claus was inspired by the Dutch Legend of Sinter Klaas. The story was brought to America by way of settlers in New York in the 17th Century.

The name "St. A Claus" first made it to the American news in 1773, but it was Washington Irving who provided detailed information about the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas. In his "History of New York" published in 1809, Diedrich Knicherbocker (aka, Washington Irving) described the arrival of a saint on horseback each Eve of Saint Nicholas.
The Dutch/American Saint Nick really came to life as we know him today in 1823 in a poem titled "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" -- what is now known as "The Night Before Christmas," written by Clement Clark Moore.

Moore provided us with the details such as Santas deep belly laughs, the names of his reindeer, and also how Santa goes up and down the chimney.

Illustrator Thomas Nast further elaborated the image of Santa Claus in Harper's magazine in the 1860s through the 1880s. He created his red suit, white beard and pom pom stocking hat.

American's also began seeing versions of Santa Claus in Coca-Cola ads in 1931
(and I believe Coke also uses Santa in their holiday ads to this day!).

The five and dime store Montgomery Wards was responsible for the creation of Rudolph and his red nose in 1939.

But would the real Santa please stand up?

The Christian-era Santa Claus is Bishop Nicholas of Smyrna (Turkey). Nicholas lived in the 4th Century AD. He was very wealthy and loved children. He would spread his wealth by throwing gifts in through the windows in the homes of poor children.

The Orthodox Church placed St. Nicholas on a higher pedestal. It was in his honor that Russia's oldest church was built.

In Germany, St. Nicholas was known as der Weinachtsmann. In England, he was known as Father Christmas.

Before long, children would pose the question, "Where does Santa live when he is not out delivering gifts?" Legend placed his home at The North Pole.

Since the 1950s, Santa has been known to live at Napapiiri, Finland. By 1985, his visits became so regular, he established his own Santa Claus office there. It is there that Santa Claus Village operates Santa's post office. Here, letters arrive from all over the world, addressed to Santa, written by children hoping their wishes will be granted.

Modern technology has invited us into Santa's office via webcam. If you'd like to see what's he's up to the week before Christmas, click here!