Not what I expected, but an interesting read nonetheless. It traces the familiar Christmas figure from his humble beginnings as Nicholas of Myra, sainted for working miracles and for acts of great generosity and charity. It follows the path his name took after his death, and how his bones were moved from place to place as miraculous relics. These chapters grew difficult to follow at times because of the many ancient and religious groups mentioned, and the sheer number of unfamiliar place names. Seal's tendency to talk about the long-dead Nicholas as if he were consciously moving from place to place in his need to make his name known was also irritating.
The last few chapters were more enjoyable, as the story grew more familiar and a recognisable Father Christmas emerged. The rise of commercialism and Santa's settling in Lapland are explored, as well as how the modern child relates to him. Here I had hoped for a little more analysis of Santa as a commercial phenomenon, and of his various incarnations around the modern world - but I enjoyed it anyway, particularly the magical moment when Seal's daughters meet Santa in a little wooden forest hut in Lapland... A worthwhile December read.