I have a wonderfully weird fascination with Santa Claus. Often something you grow out of after the age of 7, I have continued to be intrigued by this marvelously magical character over the years and have sought out a new book about Santa every holiday season. Since coming to work at the Toronto Reference Library, I have discovered this year's Santa treasure: JRR Tolkein's "Letters From Father Christmas." It's a beautifully illustrated collection of letters from Tolkein, who is pretending to be Santa Claus, to his children.
My desire to enjoy books about Santa Claus usually happens around late November, early December coinciding with the lighting pine-scented candles and using Iowa Pine Mrs. Meyers cleaning products around my house. I have also adopted my mother-in-law's tradition of buying a Santa Christmas ornament every place we travel and now our Christmas tree has Santas of every shape, size, and colour. My favourite is a rather fit, snorkeling Santa from Belize that we found on our honeymoon.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say we all have traditions that help get us in the Christmas spirit. I think a popular one is Christmas movies that get rewatched every year. Whether you enjoy them before Christmas or during that strange time between Christmas and New Years when time (and real pants) no longer matter, Christmas movies are wildly comforting. My husband feels the need to watch the extended editions of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" movies and I like to watch "Scrooged" on Christmas eve. My dad and I delight in acting out the line "The b*tch hit me with a toaster" much to my mother's dismay and an eye roll that could reach outer space.
The Man Who Invented Christmas has been added to our Christmas watch list a few years ago, if you're a fan of biopics this one is for you. It's wonderfully acted by Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey and is based on the true story of Charles Dicken's magical invention of Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Christopher Plummer).
If you've got enough movies on your plate, "Die Hard," "Home Alone," and "Harry Potter" were all deemed must-watch titles at our annual Friendsmas this past weekend, perhaps I can peek your curiosity in books about Santa Claus instead? Please scroll through and enjoy this curated list of my favourite biographies, philosophical investigations, real-life Santas, and spoofs of the big man himself. The feminist in me would be remiss if I didn't include the unsung hero, Mrs. Claus, so I saved the best for last.
Santa Claus Biographies
Santa Claus: A Biography by Gerry Bowler
"Santa Claus was born in early-nineteenth-century America, but his family tree goes back seven hundred years to Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children. Intervening generations were shaggy and strange — whip-wielding menaces to naughty boys and girls. Yet as the raucous, outdoor, alcohol-fuelled holiday gave way to a more domestic, sentimental model, a new kind of gift-bringer was called for — a loveable elf, still judgmental but far less threatening."
The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn
"An enchanting holiday treasure, this book combines solid historical fact with legend to deliver the definitive story of Santa Claus. And who better to lead us through seventeen centuries of Christmas magic than good ol Saint Nick himself?"
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
"From the author of the Wizard of Oz comes a magical tale about the origins and story of Santa Claus including Santa's childhood among the fairies and animals, how he came to make presents, and why he comes down our chimneys at Christmas."
Philosophy of Santa
Does Santa Exist? A Philosophical Investigation by Eric Kaplan
"Metaphysics isn’t ordinarily much of a laughing matter. But in the hands of acclaimed comedy writer and scholar Eric Kaplan, a search for the truth about old St. Nick becomes a deeply insightful, laugh-out-loud discussion of the way some things exist but may not really be there."
The Truth About Santa by Gregory Mone
"In this fantastically illustrated, affectionate, and hilarious book, Gregory Mone uses science and technology to overturn the assumption that Santa can't be real. Drawing on the work of accomplished scientists and researchers, Mone gives us a whole new portrait of this remarkable man and the miracles he makes happen every year."
The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus by Dr. Hannah Fry and Dr. Thomas Oleron Evans
"In their quest to provide mathematical proof for the existence of Santa, the authors take readers on a festive journey through a traditional holiday season, wherein every activity, from wrapping presents to playing board games to cooking the perfect turkey, is painstakingly and hilariously analyzed."
Santa Claus "IRL" (In Real Life)
Being Santa Claus by Sal Lizard
"Sal Lizard was in his twenties when his beard and hair turned completely white. Today he appears everywhere from malls and parades to schools and hospitals. And-- from his custom-made red velvet suits to the mistletoe that hangs from the rearview mirror in his Santa-mobile--he is Santa Claus three hundred and sixty-five days a year."
A Mile of Make Believe by Steve Penfold
"This volume focuses on the Eaton's sponsored parades that occurred in Toronto, Montreal, and Winnipeg as well as the shorter-lived parades in Calgary and Edmonton. There is also a discussion of small town alternatives, organized by civic groups, service clubs, and chambers of commerce."
The Santa Claus Man by Alex Palmer
"Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa's mail."
I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus by S.G. Browne
“Andy Warner has just escaped from a zombie research facility in Portland, Oregon, where he's been subjected to experimental testing for the past year. With Christmas just days away, Andy figures that donning a jolly old St. Nick costume to throw off his would-be captors is just the ticket. For the living and the undead, this unforgettable holiday tale will truly put on display just who is gnawing and who is nice.”
Klaus by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora
“Set in a dark fantastic past of myth and magic, Klaus tells the story of how Santa Claus really came to be. Where did he begin? What was he like when he was young? And what happens when he faces his greatest challenge? Drawing on Santa Claus' wilder roots in Viking lore and Siberian shamanism, taking in the creepier side of Christmas, and characters like the sinister Krampus, Klaus is Santa Claus: Year One.”
How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas by Jeff Guinn
“It's 1620, and Mrs. Claus's dear husband is off in the New World, planting seeds for what will become a glorious Christmas tradition. Meanwhile, Mrs. Claus has chosen to stay in England, where the first signs of a dangerous threat to Yuletide cheer are in evidence."
Comment below and tell me some of your favourite Christmas or holiday traditions!