Thomas Nast began drawing Santa as early as 1863. Over the years, Nast’s depiction evolved, but it is his 1881 drawing of a heavier, jollier Kris Kringle in Harper's Weekly that ultimately defined the modern Santa Claus.
Nast, who heard stories of St. Nicholas as a child in Germany, fattened him up, gave him a red suit and rosy red cheeks, and also created or popularized some of the iconic things we associate with Santa, such as his North Pole residence and helper elves.
St. Nicholas may have been born in present-day Turkey, but Santa Claus, or at least the Santa the world has come to adopt, was born in New Jersey at the desk of Nast’s Morristown, NJ home. Being New Jersey born and raised myself, it feels great to know that Santa is a good ol’ Jersey boy just like Bruce Springsteen and Artie Lange, who played Santa in the movie “Elf.”