There has been some interest in the origin of Santa recently, some stimulated by the "White Santa-Black Santa" controversy. This shows only that the Americans can make anything racial; they are simply race obsessed. It is now officially a pathology. But there are some interesting things about Santa. (Lisa Hicks has a nice article on the evolution of Santa, possibly from the early days of the provocative Odin, in Collectors Weekly.)
Nicholas of Myra is usually identified as "St Nick," a fourth-century Greek Bishop of Myra (Demre, part of modern-day Turkey) in Lycia. His bones were disinterred for examination. In 2004, a three-dimensional digital reconstruction of his face was made. His modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of "Saint Nikolaos":
His identification was confirmed by his broken nose, the result of an injury he received in a legendary altercation between St. Nicholas and Arius, an infamous heretic, at the Council of Nicaea in 325.
His reconstruction from the University of Liverpool, with his nasal fracture:
And from Manchester:
A portrait of the chilling Odin: