<h3><strong>In cultures and countries across the globe, Saint Nick is central to the celebration—and commercialization—of Christmas.</strong></h3><p dir="ltr"><strong>In this photo from a January 1957 National Geographic article, Alaskan <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/12/pictures/141220-reindeer-animals-christmas-science-cultures-herders/">reindeer</a> pull Santa Claus's sleigh during the <a href="http://thenationaltree.org/event-history/">Pageant of Peace</a> in Washington, D.C. The annual event, which includes the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, began in 1923 under President Calvin Coolidge.</strong></p><p>The Santa we know today bears little resemblance to <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-christmas-facts-st-nicholas/">the original Saint Nicholas</a>. Yet the character has proved an enduring icon of Christmas. For many people around the world, the jolly, red-suited, white-bearded figure is a central part of the holiday's celebration—and commercialization.</p><p>As you wait for Santa to come down your chimney tonight, browse through these images of Old Saint Nick from the National Geographic photo archive.</p><p><em>—By Anna Lukacs, photo gallery by Kathy Moran</em></p>

A Right Jolly Old Elf

In cultures and countries across the globe, Saint Nick is central to the celebration—and commercialization—of Christmas.

In this photo from a January 1957 National Geographic article, Alaskan reindeer pull Santa Claus's sleigh during the Pageant of Peace in Washington, D.C. The annual event, which includes the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, began in 1923 under President Calvin Coolidge.

The Santa we know today bears little resemblance to the original Saint Nicholas. Yet the character has proved an enduring icon of Christmas. For many people around the world, the jolly, red-suited, white-bearded figure is a central part of the holiday's celebration—and commercialization.

As you wait for Santa to come down your chimney tonight, browse through these images of Old Saint Nick from the National Geographic photo archive.

—By Anna Lukacs, photo gallery by Kathy Moran

Photograph by Volkmar K. Wentzel, Nat Geo Image Collection

The Wide World of Santa Claus

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