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Nicholas [Hardcover]

Jeremy Seal

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Book Description

Oct. 12 2005
Santa Claus existed before Coca-Cola put him in a red suit. This wonderfully written, idiosyncratic biography of Santa Claus describes, for the first time, his early origins in Byzantine Turkey and on to his current reign as a North American commercial icon.

Nicholas begins 1,700 years ago in Myra where he was revered in Orthodox and Catholic churches. His cult advanced westward, unstopped by Muslims, hagiophobic Puritans and even the Protestant abolition of saints. Readers will gain valuable insight into the history of Christianity and a fresh respect for this beloved symbol of goodness and generosity.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury US (Oct. 12 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582344191
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582344195
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,732,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Booklist

On the heels of an eye-opening pre-Christmas trek to Santa's Kingdom with his six-year-old daughter, Seal commenced mapping the route an unassuming fourth-century bishop took to become a twenty-first-century icon who, surrounded by fake snow, didn't look like the sort "who usually went out of his way to be nice to children." Said to have secretly provided a poverty-stricken nobleman with enough dowry to marry off his three daughters, Nicholas had humble beginnings. Despite achieving the not insignificant distinction of sainthood via good works rather than martyrdom, his road to international fame wasn't easy by any means, what with Christian cities that revered him suddenly falling to non-Christians and banishing all things Christ-related. Then there was that pesky Reformation, when all saints became personae non gratae. Those obstacles came to seem speed bumps compared with others that Nikolai/Mikulas/Nicolaos/Nigul Klaus/Sinterklaas/Santa Claus would encounter. Told as if the generous saint were orchestrating his own popularity from a heavenly perch, Seal's account is chockablock with historical detail and dry humor. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

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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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Jeremy: The Epic Travelogue Concerning Locations Pertaining to St. Nicholas and/or Santa Claus Dec 30 2006
By Meredith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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
3.0 out of 5 stars The history of the legend, mixed with a travelogue Dec 29 2005
By MLPlayfair - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus Dec 8 2009
By Eric Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating biographical and spiritual account which readers will enjoy year-round March 5 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Saint Nicholas' Travels in Becoming Santa Claus Feb. 27 2012
By L. M Young - Published on Amazon.com
My husband and I listened to an intriguing abridgement of this book on BBC Radio 4X last Christmas, intriguing enough for me to hunt down a copy. Seal investigates the reality and the myth of St. Nicholas, from his shadowed origins to the miraculous "blood" which comes fro his tomb and the theft of his body and its transport to Bari in Italy in medieval times. Seal travels to each of the places in the St. Nicholas legend, leading to some picturesque visits to Turkey and small towns around the Mediterranean, and then to Amsterdam and Belgium. It's an interesting, if occasionally dry, narrative except for Seal's insistence on writing Nicholas' story as if the deceased saint was somehow directing his fame from beyond the grave. Seal sets this against the search of his own children for "the real Santa Claus," for which the family finally takes a trip to Finland. Unusual and offbeat, but worth looking up if you have an interest in the "ancestry" of Santa.

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