Santa Claus finally tells his own story

November 24, 1994|By Dolores Donner | Dolores Donner,Fort Worth Star-Telegram

To the best of my knowledge, Santa Claus in the 17 centuries since his birth has never before written a book.

Last year he read an article written by Jeff Guinn, associate books editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, about little-known facts of Christmas; and Santa decided to set the record straight.

Mr. Guinn accompanied one of Santa's emissaries to the North )) Pole -- very secretly, of course, because the people who live there really value their privacy.

At their first meeting, Santa informed Mr. Guinn, "The story you wrote for your newspaper convinces me that you truly love Christmas, though I'm afraid you don't know nearly as much about it as you think you do." They agreed to collaborate: Santa would tell his story, Mr. Guinn would record it.

In the year A.D. 280, in the country of Lycia (now known as Turkey), Epiphaneos and Nonna -- then in their 50s -- had given up hope that they would ever be parents; but they were blessed by the birth of their son Nicholas, which means "victorious." Theirs was an upper-middle-class Christian family and Nicholas was happy with his religion, except on days when they were supposed to fast. (Evidently, he always has had a hearty appetite.)

After Nicholas' parents died when he was 9, he was placed under guardianship of priests at the local church. His parents had provided well for him, and as Nicholas grew older, he became increasingly aware that he was much more fortunate than most people in Patara, where he lived. Under the tutelage of a kindly priest named Philip, he learned how to share his worldly goods.

Nicholas eventually became a bishop and extended his mysterious nighttime gift-giving to other parts of his community. Rumors abounded, but one description of the gift-giver was common: He wore red robes with sleeves and collar trimmed in white -- the habit of bishops.

Well, of course, you've figured it out: St. Nicholas. What you probably don't know is that he didn't really die. Over the centuries he's been known by many different names, and his autobiography now reveals how it all came about.

St. Nick/Santa Claus chronicles his story with good humor and introduces us to many of his helper friends -- Felix; Attila the Hun and his wife, Dorothea; Francis of Assisi; the Arthur known as king; Leonardo da Vinci; and Willie Skokan, all of whom are still with him.

Of course, during 17 centuries, Santa has met many famous people and been blessed by their favors. Layla, his delightful, spunky wife, continues to influence him. It was she who introduced the idea of giving children toys instead of food and clothing, because of the lasting joy they bring. She also inspired Franz Gruber to write "Silent Night, Holy Night." (Leonardo still paints portraits and maintains the one of Layla "is much better than the Mona Lisa."

A certain magic enables Santa and his friends to travel great distances in short periods of time, to perform incredible feats of creativity, and to perpetuate their longevity. Unfortunately, being near war and strife inhibits the magic.

As the world changes, Santa recognizes the need to change as well. The North Pole is now "computerized and departmentalized, but never subsidized."

"The Autobiography of Santa Claus" is a book for all ages and should be in everyone's collection of Christmas stories. It is illustrated superbly (by Dorit Rabinovitch) and even contains Santa's favorite recipe for fried chicken. Santa and Mr. Guinn have made an excellent blend of history and fiction, legend and truth, with the underlying theme that it truly is "better to give" . . . and not just at Christmas.

Nicholas' parents were generous and Santa feels sure " . . . they've enjoyed watching their son go on to such an unexpected -- and long -- career."

I believe . . . and reindeer really do fly.

Ms. Donner is a Fort Worth poet.

BOOK REVIEW

Title: "The Autobiography of Santa Claus: It's Better To Give"

Editor: Jeff Guinn

Publisher: The Summit Group

Length, price: 283 pages, $22.95

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.