A Boy Called Christmas, by Matt Haig, is the spirit of the season wrapped up inside the covers of a book. It is funny, poignant, mischievous, magical and joyous to read. It provides all the warm fuzzies without ever descending into schmaltz.
The protagonist, Nikolas, is a woodcutter’s son living in Finland more than a hundred years ago. He and his father, Joel, are very poor, subsisting on berries, stale bread and soup made from foraged mushrooms. When a hunter appears unexpectedly at their remote home offering untold riches if Joel will join him on an expedition to the dangerous north, Nikolas is left in the care of his cruel aunt. Even hungrier now, desperate and unhappy, Nikolas counts the days to his father’s return. When he does not reappear the boy determines to follow in the woodcutter’s footsteps and search him out.
The dangers Nikolas encounters and the friends he makes on his adventures offer explanations for many of the traditions now associated with the festive season. We learn how reindeer fly, why presents are placed in stockings, how crackers save lives, and the origins of the naughty and nice lists.
The author slips in many points to consider about humanity, greed, and how grown ups seek to justify their selfishness. He also reminds us of the joy of giving, the value of a clear conscience, and the power of hope.
If I had read this book years ago then I would not have told my growing children that Father Christmas was not real. Why limit life by accepting what others regard as impossible?
“An impossibility is just a possibility you don’t understand yet…”
This is a book that deserves to appear in every stocking on Christmas Eve. I have no doubt it is destined to become a perennial festive favourite with child and adult alike.