When we think of Santa Claus, we conjure up images of a happy, round man with white whiskers and lots of little helpers.

The man they call Santa Claus.

Everybody knows Santa. He’s the jolly old elf who’s constantly saying, “Ho, ho, ho.”

That image can be traced back to the 1820s and the poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas.”

Some years later, the newspaper artist Thomas Nast painted the first image of Santa Claus, drawing inspiration from Clement Moore’s poem.

Santa is also thought to have been derived from the Dutch Sinte Klaas, who was brought to the New World by settlers.

There is a St. Nicholas who, as legend has it, lived in fourth-century Greece, bringing gold coins to anyone in need.

And many European tales over the years have told of a Father Christmas, a bearded old man who appears at Yuletide and gives presents.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.