Santa's image is almost universally recognizable as one of Christianity's most enduring and popular legends, yet the seemingly timeless jolly old man with his bag of toys, steering his reindeer and sliding down chimneys, is a relatively modern image.
The Legends of Santa shows how today's image of Father Christmas is a culmination of centuries of history and legend.
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey.
Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.
One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married.
Over the course of many years, Nicholas's popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors.
His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married.