A new history of Santa Claus traces history in first person
“You’re right to believe in me….”
So starts the new Christmas story, The Autobiography of Santa Claus. This magical book recounts the life of the man in the red suit, Santa.
Santa, or St. Nicholas, tells the tale of his life from birth in 280 A.D., until the present day to author Jeff Guinn in this speculated fiction book.
The book begins with the story of Santa’s birth, the story of a well off orphan raised by Christian priests, who had a huge heart. To spare the parents of the poor children potential humiliation of being helped by a young man, Santa, who was at this point known only as Nicholas, crept into people’s houses, originally only in his small town of Lycia in what is now southwest Turkey. He left gifts of money, and eventually much more.
Santa also had a day job in the beginning. He was a prominent figure in the Catholic Church as the well known, much respected and much loved, Bishop of Myria. He would later become known as St. Nicholas. This name was something Santa felt he had not deserved, though his ability to give life to the lame and hope to the needy shows us how well deserved he was.
After many years of being bishop and giving gifts secretly on the side, Santa realized that while everyone around him was growing old, he was not. Though he didn’t look young, with a white beard, wrinkled face and a big, big belly, Santa looked better by far than anyone else in their hundreds.
Santa realized that he would have to leave his beloved home and start afresh so no one would discover his secrets, and so began the rest of his adventures.Throughout this story, Santa meets all sorts of wonderful and innovative people. First is an ex-slave named Felix whom Santa meets in Rome after running from Lycia.
Felix and Santa set out from Rome determined to try to give gifts to as many poor children that they can, but eventually their money runs out. To pay the bills, Felix uses his almost magical skill with wood carving. Felix carves book covers for a merchant that he and Santa meet in their travels. By selling these beautiful book covers, Santa and Felix were able to afford their travel and their gift giving.
The next member of the Santa gang was Layla. She was a women that Santa and Felix discovered sneaking into a tent to leave a gift for a poor child. Recognizing a kindred spirit, Santa invites her to join him. After a couple of years Santa and Layla get married. That’s right… Layla is Mrs.Claus.
With Layla, they continue to adventure the world. In turns working with, and hiding from, various soldiers that they encounter on the roads. It is during this time that they realize that whatever magic is working in them allows them to travel at amazing speeds, but also that this magic does not work around war and the violence that comes with it.
Just like Santa’s time and place jumping on Christmas Eve, in this next section he is all over the world, which is how he meets his next recruit. A famous 5th century war chief tired of fighting, Attila the Hun. Historians say Attila died in battle but Santa says that he faked his death so that he and his wife, Dorothea, could leave with Santa.
Like Layla, Dorothea is a strong woman with plenty of smart opinions that she is not afraid to share with the male members of the group, something that Santa greatly admires about both of them.
The band of gift-givers continues on, recruiting a few more notable members as they go. This includes the Briton war leader Arthur. Yes, as in the Arthur that would later be called “King of Camelot”. In reality Arthur was only a leader of a small group of men that lived in the forests of his homeland of Briton.
The visual aspect of this part, and others, is amazing. Santa, through Guinn, really has a gift for making the reader feel like they can see the landscape and the people. The trees in this particular section seem to be tangible living objects.
Santa continues his journey by recruiting Francis of Assisi, a kind monk. Then a talented toymaker named Willie Skokan and after them the famous inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci.
But even with all of this success, which included Santa having Arthur build toy factories in Briton and Attila in Germany, Santa wanted more. So when he heard about the “New World” he decided to leave Layla for a while and to journey with Felix, his original companion, to this new place.
Santa was at first negatively received by the Puritan pilgrims of America, but he and Felix persevered, eventually making a name for “Santa” in America as well.In America, they gained Sarah Kemble Knight, an ex-schoolteacher who had traveled all around America, and Benjamin Franklin as followers before returning to Europe.
Santa also recruited people to write about him during this time including Washington Irving, “It was the night before Christmas and all through the house….”, and Charles Dickens. When Santa told Dickens his spectacular story Dickens soon wrote, “The best Christmas story of all time”, The Christmas Carol.
Also during this time, da Vinci and Franklin figured out a way to make reindeer fly and pull a sleigh and that Santa should make a home in the North Pole, where there would never be anything to interrupt his magic.
And after all of these adventures we are left with, as he himself told it, the glorious life of the one who makes Christmas cheer just a little more common, magical and wonderful. This book is a must for anyone who needs to be reminded once again, of all the magic that occurs at Christmas time.