Christmas wouldn't be the same without Santa Claus. Inspired by a number of mythological and religious figures, from the Christian Saint Nicholas to the European spirit Father Christmas to the Norse god Odin himself, Santa has become the icon of the holiday season. He represents the joy, compassion, and magic of the Christmas season. Our modern view of the classic character (a rotund man in a red-furred coat driving a sleigh pulled by reindeer) originated in the late 18th and early 19th centuries through the work of various authors and illustrators, and that image has become synonymous with Christmas itself.