Jeremy Seal (Bath, U.K.) is a travel writer for a number of publications and the author of several books, including The Snakebite Survivor's Club and The Wreck of Sharpnose Point. His charming commentary on modern Turkey, A Fez of the Heart, was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook/Daily Telegraph travel book award.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Jeremy: The Epic Travelogue Concerning Locations Pertaining to St. Nicholas and/or Santa ClausDec 30 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Chronicling the evolution of a 4th century Byzantine bishop named Nicholas to the 19th and 20th century pop culture icon by the name of Santa Claus would make a fascinating book. Unfortunately, Mr. Seal subscribes to the participatory school of journalism, so this book is about his experience searching for the origins of St. Nicholas via a globe-trotting vacation rather than being about St. Nicholas becoming the legendary figure of Santa Claus.
If the reader is willing to wade through all the autobiography and melodramatic musings, there is some good history on the spread of the cult of St. Nicholas and the development of the legend of Santa Claus. The author's tone is rather pleasant although his long-winded tangents might occasionally cause his audience's eyes to glaze.
If you are interested in reading about how St. Nicholas became Santa Claus without the inclusion of the researcher's life story, then you might want to read WONDERWORKER: THE TRUE STORY OF HOW SAINT NICHOLAS BECAME SANTA CLAUS by Vincent A. Yzermans or ST. NICHOLAS OF MYRA, BARI, AND MANHATTAN by Charles W. Jones. WONDERWORKER is a deceptively simple book. It is short and sweet, and its flaw lies in its lack of citations and bibliography rather than its brevity. ST. NICHOLAS OF MYRA, BARI, AND MANHATTEN is an extremely thorough and well documented but also an extremely scholarly and dry biography of St. Nicholas. Be forewarned that Mr. Jones irreverently refers to St. Nicholas as N. throughout that entire work.
For biographies of St. Nicholas minus Santa Claus, there are ST. NICHOLAS: LIFE, SERVICE, & AKATHIST by St. Dimitry of Rostov and TRANSLATION OF THE RELICS OF ST. NICHOLAS: ACCOUNT AND LITURGICAL SERVICE translated by Isaac Lambertsen. Both of these pamphlets are available from St. John of Kronstadt Press.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The history of the legend, mixed with a travelogueDec 29 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
If you have a long winter night, you may take to "Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus" by Jeremy Seal, which is a serious work of historical biography. Seal, an experienced travel writer, begins with the tale of the real St. Nicholas in Turkey in the fourth century and concludes with his own children, surfing the Internet to watch the virtual Christmas Eve journey of a chubby guy in a red suit and his flying reindeer.
Seal reveals how the man turned into a legend and how the related traditions evolved by pursuing him geographically, around Europe and into the New World. He shows that Santa/Nicholas is a universal figure, though different in each country, and the saint's legacy changes a bit with each generation.
The book is interesting and has some nice phrasing, but be warned: This is not "Santa: The Musical" - the going gets a bit dry. Still, some of it is also heartwarming, because it's interspersed with anecdotes from the author's own Christmas memories and his children's experiences.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa ClausDec 8 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus. Author: Jeremy Seal. 368 pages. 2005
I picked up this book in the discount section of a discount store. I thought it might be interesting reading and a diversion from my usual reading stack. As I began reading the book, it occurred to me that it was actually quite similar to "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" by Rebecca West. The author used a deft combination of geography, history, faith, culture, and personal experience. The book actually proved far more interesting than I thought it would be. It is one of those books that can really foment questions and reflections creating a challenge rather than merely dry comfortable re-telling of the same story.
Speaking of re-telling the same old story, this book is not hagiography in the traditional sense; though it certainly discusses the issue of hagiography. The subject, Nicholas is one of the most mythologized of all saints in Christendom. Any serious study of the saint will embroil the reader in a test of reality vs. myth. The larger question though is does the historical truth really matter when dealing with issues of faith? For example the issue of Nicholas slapping Arius during the First Ecumenical Council ... myth ... but does it really matter? This issue of myth and its creation and impact is addressed in this book though the topic could and should be a whole tome in and of its self.
The book traces the journey of St. Nicholas from his diocese in Myrna ever westward and northward as if he was the main character in the action. It may be unsettling for some readers as it gives the saint a lust for re-known out of the character normally assigned to the saint. However it is a very good device for moving and explaining the journey. To discount the device as frivolous or mere mirth is to deny the actions of and the intercessions of saints when they pass into the heavenly kingdom.
The journey surprised me. The saint changed form with each incremental move west. The rate of change proved uneven though adapted to each culture and its experience and norms. In some ways it conforms to the missionary methodologies of the early Orthodox Christian Church. What remained most constant is the notion of gift giving. For most of the journey St. Nicholas gave gifts in emulation of the famous story of the three daughters not on the days he gave those gifts but on his canonical feast day, the sixth of December. The date changed to January the first in the new world and then eventually to Christmas itself but not until almost the middle of the 19th century.
The appearance and accoutrements of Saint Nicholas changed with each cultural exposure as well. He lost much of his religious appearance during the English and Dutch iconoclasm of the 16th and 17th centuries. Though even in those societies he was still referred to as a Saint. The English eventually morphed him into Father Christmas though that could have religious implications. In some places such as The Netherlands he acquired an assistant "Black Piet" a Moor who helped him. It was not until around 1900 that the image of a white bewhiskered, ruddy faced man in red who drove a reindeer pulled sleigh solidified.
This book provides fodder for serious conversations and as such is a good starting point to look at a variety of issues about faith, memory, values, and society.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating biographical and spiritual account which readers will enjoy year-roundMarch 5 2006
Midwest Book Review
- Published on Amazon.com
Nicholas: The Epic Journey From Saint To Santa Claus arrived too late for more timely holiday mention but still provides a fascinating biographical and spiritual account which readers will enjoy year-round. The rise of Santa Claus from his origins in Byzantine Turkey to his modern jolly friend of children image is followed in a survey of religious worship and changes around the world. The author's own travelogue in search of Nicholas' spirit and bones makes for a passionate, lively study.
A COMBINATION OF TRAVELOGUE AND HISTORICAL STUDYApril 20 2011
Steven H Propp
- Published on Amazon.com
Jeremy Seal is a very talented writer, and author of books such as A Fez of the Heart: Travels around Turkey in Search of a Hat, Treachery at Sharpnose Point: Unraveling the Mystery of the Caledonia's Final Voyage, The Snakebite Survivors' Club: Travels Among Serpents, etc.
This book is essentially a "travelogue" of Seal's journey to all of the sites that figure in the transition from Saint Nicholas, a Catholic bishop from Myra (in modern Turkey), to "Santa Claus" of popular legend. Along the way, however, he provides abundant and historical detail.
Here are some quotations from the book:
"A prosperous nobleman ... fell into poverty. He eventually determined, since no suitors could be found for his three beautiful daughters in their impecunious state, to sell them into prostitution... Nicholas, not wishing to be identified in his philanthropy, went to the nobleman's house in the dead of night and ... threw a bag of gold through the window. In the morning, when the man found the mysterious gift, he was elated and married off his eldest daughter forthwith, using the gold as her dowry... 'Three Daughters,' as the story was commonly known..." (Pg. 28-29) "The Council at Nicaea was the most significant ecclesiastical event since the missions of St. Paul and the Apostles... The bishop of Myra is conspicuously missing from the early surviving lists of delegates at Nicaea... Nicholas' devotees came to argue that he had not been absent from Nicaea as much as accidentally omitted from the lists. Their insistence paid off. Nicholas would get to Nicaea in A.D. 325; it just took him until the ninth century to do so." (Pg. 81) "Written accounts of 'Three Daughters' make it clear what the girls were saved from by Nicholas' timely intervention. Symeon does not sound the habitual retreat into coy euphemism..." (Pg. 148) "The Germans shifted their gift-giving to Christmas and installed in St. Nicholas' old role the replacement that the new date insisted upon: Christkind, or the Christ child." (Pg. 173) "Clement Clarke Moore was only intending to amuse his own children when he wrote... 'An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.'" (Pg. 180) "It was plain, wherever Santa was headed, that episcopal robes and stole, miter and crosier would not be traveling with him. The figure that Washington Irving and Clement Clarke Moore... had eased into the world was no longer a servant of the church." (Pg. 187) "Popular perception tended to dress Santa in a wide-ranging palette... That all changed in 1869, when a book edition of (Thomas) Nast's Santa illustrations was published using a newly developed color printing process. The new processes did not think much of brown, preferring show-off tones, so Nast put Santa in red... Santa finally had settled on an outfit, at once efficiently insulated and flamboyant." (Pg. 192) "(O)n Finnish government radio in 1927, they pointed out that Finnish Lapland could provide, among other things, the pasturing for Santa's lichen-hungry reindeer that the North Pole patently could not." (Pg. 201)