Sedaris first read the essay on National Public Radio's Morning Edition on December 23, 1992. The piece was well-received, and provided Sedaris with his first major break. Sedaris later published the essay in the collections Barrel Fever (1994) and Holidays on Ice (1997). A much longer version of the piece first aired on December 20, 1996 on the Public Radio International program This American Life. In 1996, Joe Mantello adapted Sedaris' essay for the stage as a one-man, one-act play, which debuted (as The Santaland Diaries) at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City on November 7, 1996. Timothy Olyphant originated the role. Mantello's adaptation has since become a seasonal staple of regional, college and high-school theatre.
Although Sedaris has claimed that the account is true, fact-checking by This American Life and others in the wake of the Mike Daisey Foxconn controversy has clouded the issue. In 2007, writing for The New Republic, Alexander S. Heard fact-checked various aspects of Sedaris's stories, including Santaland Diaries, and found that several aspects were exaggerated and manufactured, although Sedaris did work in Macy's during the time period represented. Although some defended Sedaris by stating that his intention was to entertain, not provide accurate information as in the case of Daisey, NPR's executive editor of news programming has stated that a reader alert is warranted.
- Lane, Raymond M. (2005-12-23). "Acerbic Adventures in 'Santaland'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-12-29.
- "Sedaris and Crumpet the Elf: A Holiday Tradition". NPR website. Retrieved 2006-12-29.
- "Christmas and Commerce". This American Life website. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
- "Offstage: An Audience Guide to The Santaland Diaries" (PDF). Long Wharf Theatre website. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2006-12-29.
- Heard, Alex (2007-03-19). "This American Lie". New Republic. Retrieved 2015-12-25.
- Farhi, Paul (2012-05-13). "The David Sedaris dilemma: A fine line between 'realish' and real". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-12-25.