According to the Writer’s Almanac, today is the birthday of Washington Irving, in 1783. It is Washington Irving who is responsible for the popularization of Christmas in America, and, specifically, the depiction of Santa Claus and his sleigh.
According to The Office of Santa Claus (How much more official can we get?) and many other sources, Irving’s portrayal was meant to be satire, a joke!
“In the British colonies of North America and later the United States, British and Dutch versions of the gift-giver merged further. For example, in Washington Irving’s History of New York, (1809), Sinterklaas was Americanized into “Santa Claus” but lost his bishop’s apparel, and was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat. Irving’s book was a lampoon of the Dutch culture of New York, and much of this portrait is his joking invention.”
Santa is a New Yorker?!?