A tiny Swedish town inside the Arctic Circle holds an annual Santa Winter Games, where St. Nicks from around the world vie for the title of best Santa. There are five events –porridge eating, reindeer riding, racing with a big bag of presents, stacking the said presents, and a dance-off.
The preparation may involve anything from the dying of eyebrows, to the growing of beards, to the careful modulation of the ho-ho-hoing.
This year’s winner was Santa Banana, of Hong Kong. He’s it, the Official Santa.
Indeed, we generally believe there’s only one Santa, but folklore isn’t always accurate. What if, as with these competitions that feature multiple supposedly fake wannabes… what if there are many Santas?
Consider: One night in mid-December, lightning spooks a reindeer and Santa falls to Earth. With him are two angels and a gaggle of extremely cranky elves. This mismatched gang must work together to fix Niklas’ fallen trailer and get airborne again. And find the renegade reindeer, too. Because Niklas is indeed Santa. Or one of them, anyway.
All this is explained to a little boy, Ben, by his new pal the big man himself. Except that the story’s not that simple. Turns out Niklas is on the lam. Christmas, you see, has been hijacked by a greedy Gus up north who’s turfed the toy-making elves and talked all but seven of the hundreds of Santas who make deliveries on Dec 25 into dumping factory-produced toys on the kids. This after processing the credit card payments of their too-busy parents, of course.
As a dissenter whose gifts come from the heart, Niklas has been banned and threatened with being turned into a snowman.
Ben wants to help, though it’s hard for him. He’s a tongue-tied boy who hates math and gets bullied by classmates. Still, Niklas is Santa, despite his threadbare clothes and odd fellow travellers. And Ben is enchanted by Niklas’ tiny house on wheels, which is bigger on the inside than the outside.
Such is the tale sketched out in When Santa Fell To Earth (2006, filed with a yellow dot), a charming story by awardwinning (and prolific) children’s author Cornelia Funke.
Eventually Charlotte, a schoolmate, also makes Santa’s acquaintance, and the two children set out together to save Christmas from a truly miserable future.
This is a fun read, whether for a child on their own, or read out loud.
Here’s another option, one that’s less fantastical. There’s A Ghost In The Cloakroom: Adam Joshua’s Christmas (words by Janice Lee Smith, pictures by Dick Gackenbach, 1991, yellow dot), is one in a series about elementary school classmates. It’s a far more practical story about the kids (and their teacher Mrs. D) planning a Grand Christmas Feast. The focus is on how the children cope with the complexities of planning such a major event for their parents. Plus they all make a new friend – the Christmas spirit ghost in the cloakroom.
Each child struggles with a costume and with the rules imposed by Mrs. D (no snakes? no pet fish? sigh).
In the end, the Christmas feast is a success, though there are a few… complications. And the Christmas spirit turns out to be a special kind of ghost.
Grown-ups also need a bit of Christmas, of course. If you don’t want to spend it alone (although you’re never alone when you have a book by your side), check out the listings in this newspaper, or online. There are Christmas dinners (some free!) and drop-ins and church services, where you can meet nice folk or have a meal or share a song, or all three.
Oh, and criminals love Christmas, too. They rarely allow a holiday to ruin their shenanigans. Quite the opposite, in fact. And so it is that the curmudgeonly and very British barrister Horace Rumpole often finds his holiday peace disturbed by bad guys needing attention.
A Rumpole Christmas, by John Mortimer, features a series of short stories, collected up on four CDs and narrated by Bill Wallis (who has the perfect Rumpole-ish voice). It’s about four-and-a-half hours of humorous mysteries, and filed in the Audio Books section. Add your own warm blanket and a cuppa.
– Eleanor Brown, Dec. 20, 2013