St. Nicholas was reputed for secretly giving to the poor in the late third century. In some countries, anonymous seasonal gifts are attributed to him; in others, Father Christmas (French: Père Nöel), Father Frost (Russian: Ded Moroz - Дед Мороз, Belarusian: Дзед Мароз, Ukrainian Дід Мороз), the three wise men or the baby Jesus are attributed as secret gift givers.
The Nordic incarnation of Santa Claus is based on the tomte (nisse in Norwegian), a gnome-like creature who protected a farm; see also Nordic folk culture.
There are multiple destinations named for Santa Claus or St. Nicholas, or named or known for various related themes such as the North Pole:
- Myra, Lycia is near what is now Demre. A St. Nicholas church is a centrepiece of the village.
- Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland is directly south of the Arctic Circle, with various Santa (Joulupukki in Finnish) or reindeer-themed attractions. Finns think his real home is at the Korvatunturi fell, but that is not where he invites people.
- Mora (Sweden) operates a Santaworld theme park.
- North Pole (Alaska) and North Pole (New York), in the United States of America, host Santa-themed attractions.
- Santa Claus (Indiana) is directly south of Ferdinand in Southwestern Indiana, USA.
- Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada is home to a Santa Claus-themed amusement park.
- Drøbak, Norway claims to be home to "Julenissen", the Norwegian Santa. Savalen (20 km/12 mi west of Tynset) also claims to be one of the places where Santa Claus lives.
- (Grand)father Frost (Ded Moroz), Russia's counterpart to Santa Claus, and his granddaughter the Snow Maiden (Snegurochka) are reputed to live in Arkhangelsk or Veliky Ustyug in Northwestern Russia.
The Canadian post office has a program for handling letters to Santa; they are answered by volunteers. His postal code follows the Canadian pattern, alternating letters and digits; it is H0H 0H0.