The Story of Santa Claus

Author:  Joseph McCullough

Illustrations: Peter Dennis

Published By: Osprey Adventures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                As someone who still believes in Santa Claus, I have always loved hearing stories about the jolly old man.  But I've always wondered about the history of Santa Claus.  For instance, why is he also called Saint Nick?  Was there really someone in history that served as an inspiration to the Santa Claus stories we hear today?  Well, I decided to do a little research and found some explanations in The Story of Santa Claus, a book by Joseph McCullough.

                The Story of Santa Claus takes us back to 280 A.D., when a happy young Christian couple became the proud parents of a baby boy they named Nicholas.  Coming from wealthy and noble families, Nicholas' parents instilled their values in their son.  Thus, Nicholas grew up in a household that encouraged kindness, generosity and prayer.  Nicholas grew up to be a pious young man who was most at home hearing tales of Christian holy men or sitting in quiet reflection upon the world around him.  

                It was no surprise that, after his parents died of the plague when he was fourteen, Nicholas decided that he would give away his wealth to those more needy, in preference of a more holy and peaceful life.  His gifts of premonition, peaceful humility and need to help the less fortunate became well-known throughout the land, even more so after he became the Bishop of the City of Myra.  Shortly after becoming Bishop, strange miracles became associated with Nicholas and, upon the death of the well-loved religious man, the miracles still took place.  Thus, the eventual title of Saint Nicholas.

                The book goes on to explain how the story of Saint Nicholas was transformed into the tale of the Santa Claus we know today.  Written as if Santa Claus actually exists (which I, for one, loved), McCullough explains the various images we have seen of Santa over the years - smoking or non-smoking, with Rudolph or without, the various locations of Santa's home base and more.  He explains the ideas of gift giving passed down from Saint Nicholas that have made it into the various cultures touched by his story over the years.

                I also loved the illustrations by Peter Dennis.  Whether in black and white or in color, each was a masterpiece unto itself, depicting the actions of Saint Nicholas and the iconic Santa Claus that we all know and love.

                At only 44 pages total, The Story of Santa Claus is a delightful read, filled with real information about the man...or men...who inspired the idea of Santa Claus.  I enjoyed the book immensely and would recommend it to any parent  who may be fielding questions about the jolly old elf from their kids.


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