The magic of Christmas lies in ritual. For me it's reading a Yuletide tale.
As a child the ritual was my carefully handwritten letters to Santa, and reading or being read the story "The Night Before Christmas," on Christmas Eve.
As I got older my letters to Santa stopped, but the week to twelve days leading up to the big day I'm always reading a Christmas novel. And, in doing this ritual for now decades plus the small child in me emerges.
However, I realized over the years there are but some many times I can reread my usual Christmas list -from classics like Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol," and Agatha Christie's "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" to chick-lit trash like Zane's "I'll be Home for Christmas," and, my Yuletide favorite, Linda Alvarez's "Dyke the Halls: Lesbian Erotic Christmas Tales," to name a few. And,oh let me not forget, my exhausted dog-eared pile of Anne Perry's macabre Christmas novels.
While I haven't read every Yuletide tale written I've certainly consumed aplenty through the years and across literary genres- and to the point of exhaustion. I was certain that my read for this year couldn't possibly be a new spin on an old tale until I was given the book "Nicholas Claus - The Story of Young Santa," an unofficial biography of Santa Claus . And I haven't been WOWED like this since a child!
"Nicholas Claus - The Story of Young Santa," is cleverly written by Boston's WBUR's well-known political consultant Todd Domke and his son, Judah Domke, an actor known for his roles in "Whipped" (2000), "Spanking the Monkey" (1994), and "Loving Jezebel' (1999).
Santa's beginnings is the missing narrative many of us Christmas revelers and readers have wondered and queried about for over many millennia- especially how Nicholas, a lowly woodman, won the heart of, social belle Anna of Derbyshire, Mrs. Claus. And now we have our answer.
"For a lot of kids they don't understand the different aspects of the Santa legend....Why are there elves? Why is Santa going down a chimney? Why the reindeers and why does he fly? We try to bring in all of those elements to explain in a cohesive hold how all of these pieces fit together," Judah Domke told Emily Rooney on her December 2010 show of "Greater Boston."
It is a children's story but parents will unquestionably vie with them to read, too.
And here's why:
The Domkes have spun a fantastical tale of Harry Porter-like magic, suspense, and adventure, Jane Austin-like romance, and comedy of how Santa became the legendary symbol that he is today. (And who knew or could imagine this jovial potbelly guy was once a hunk with eight-pack abs?) And the story touches upon many of the social concerns of the day- classism elitism, poverty, animal rights, good versus evil, to name a few.
The story opens with Anna of Derbyshire arriving in Forest Boreal to reside, after the tragic death of parents, with her maternal eccentric and elitist aunt, Mrs. Sophie Fairfield. As Anna is being helped with her baggages by her aunt's mean-spirited carriage drive, Clyde S. Dale, Nicholas is immediately smitten by her beauty "and the confident way she walked."
Like Anna, Nicholas grew up as an orphan.
Nicholas is a lowly woodsman with a generous heart who was abandon as a toddler and raised by a kind-hearted old blind wizard, Remoth. When Nick realizes Anna comes from the upper-echelons of society he decides to enter a tree chopping contest to not only catch Anna's attention, but to eventually win her affection. He's warned, however, by both Remoth and his best friend, Blitzen, a reindeer to stay away from romance. But we all know how tantalizing and titillating forbidden fruit is and sadly mysterious obstacles thwart Nick and Anna efforts at every turn.
One of the reasons for the many obstacles in their path to an idyllic romance is the SYZYGY TEST, a mystical test that occurs every 77 years, giving someone a chance to gain magical powers, and those powers can be used for good or for evil. (A syzygy is a real planetary phenomenon. It is when three heavenly bodies line up together- sun, moon, earth- during an eclipse.) Nick has chosen to take it. In so doing, Nick and Anna join together to win the Syzygy test from a shadowy villain who wants to pass it for his own glory. And the question you'll ask yourself in this page-turner is " Can they do it in time?"
"Nicholas Claus - The Story of Young Santa," is a must read! And it's not too late. It's only 144 pages with 12 chapters so that you can read a chapter a day leading up to Christmas
"POST-CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA! If you order NICHOLAS CLAUS too late to be delivered by Christmas, that's okay! Children feel post-Christmas letdown after all the gifts are opened. Why not send a gift that extends the joy of Christmas? (This works for adults, too...)" is what one person wrote on the Nicholas Claus Facebook.
And I couldn't agree more.