It started as a concept. A new story tradition. An amalgamation of "Old World" traditions brought to this "New World." Just like the banjo and the stumpt fiddle, "Santa Claus" was born here in America. From a small start the tradition grew as it embodied a new direction while keeping alive many of the old traditions.
First mentioned in print in 1772, as St. A. Claus. The new tradition left behind to the "Old World" many of St. Nicholas’s companions such as Black Peter and Kram…pus, Santa was a far more gentle and forgiving tradition.
As time passed, the tradition of Santa grew in popularity, so too did the stories and "touchstones" of the new "Santa." Used mostly as window dressing in the early half of the 1800’s, to draw customers to the stores, the image was defining itself as well with political cartoons run in the Harpers Weekly. Toward the end of the 1800’s, we saw the first "live" Santa performing in stores and on street corners ringing bells to collect funds for meals.
With the advent of the motion picture, the image of Santa and the associate traditions and stories rapidly grew and changed. With each military conflict involving America, wherever we went, so too did Santa. WWI, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Shield and all the conflicts since, saw Santa going to those lands to give comfort to our personnel.
In doing so, we exposed the local population to this tradition as well and Santa has been making great inroads in supplanting or replacing the older St. Nicholas traditions that may have been already in place there and planting the idea of Santa in lands that did not have such a tradition centered round the Christmas Holiday.
Now we see Santa working in places such as Mainland China, Japan, the Philippines and even Ferrari World in Dubai.
The traditions of Santa Date back less than 300 years where as the traditions of St. Nicholas go back beyond 1600 years! The change of the Santa image and tradition over the last 15 years is vastly greater than the change in the St. Nicholas image and tradition over the last 300 years