In the Time of Nick

If you still believe that Santa Claus will be sliding down your chimney on Christmas Eve, skip Jeremy Seal's historical travelogue Santa: A Life. Not that Seal is a killjoy. After all, for a start the British writer indulgently ferries his wonderstruck daughters to Santa's Kingdom, a vast, tawdry grotto in Birmingham, England, and then, a year later, all the way to Lapland. In between, though, Seal comes to admire Santa's prototype, as he tracks the shape-shifting Byzantine bishop St. Nicholas across 17 centuries of Christendom. Born in Christian Myra (now Demre) in southern Turkey in 280 A.D., Nick was sainted...

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