I figured after so many repetitions of Clement Moore's 1823 poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (or to give it it's proper name A Visit From St. Nicholas) that this is where the whole "Santa and his sleigh" came from - not so! It came from a source even older than the poem (and from a friend of Moore's), writer Washington Irving. As Time Lists explains:
"The author best known for creating the Headless Horseman also created the iconic image of Santa flying in a sleigh. In his 1819 series of short stories The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, New York native Washington Irving described a dream in which St. Nicholas soared across the sky in a weightless wagon. The stories became so popular, they spawned a Christmas revival of sorts in the States, and even Charles Dickens is said to have credited Irving's work for inspiring his classic holiday tale A Christmas Carol."
So now you know ... and now I'M sitting here thinking of how with one jot of his pen, we could have wound up with the 'Headless Santa' instead! :)
But what about the sleigh itself? Surely there's been some improvements made to it in almost 200 years? Funny you should ask! The good folks at How Stuff Works has the answer for you ... Santa's done a LOT of upgrading over the years and they break down for you just how he does his magic on Christmas Eve (hint: think Antimatter Propulsion Units and Nanotechnology) - go see!