St. Nicholas is, of course, a grand saint. And Santa Claus really seems to be a separate entity working in association with the saint. Nicholas, I think, is the pope of the holiday and Santa maybe the head cardinal? And then all the millions of Santas spread around the world that are scaring all the little kids in the malls and on street corners are the faithful bishops and knights and pawns?
Anyway, here is a lovely depiction, by Hergé, of a grand arrival of Saint Nicholas, certainly emulating His Holiness, the Pope. And it looks like Homer Simpson's granddad must have been one of triplets back in the day.
Hergé —The Arrival of Saint Nicholas — 1936