Properly restored, Christmas can heal the world, says author Tim Slover.
"I know that sounds nutty," Slover told the Deseret News, "but I really do believe it because I get that spirit at least for a minute, a fleeting few minutes, during every Christmas season. There's a kind of hope that rises in me. I think that it is not just nondenominational but maybe not denominational at all. … Of course it's a holy holiday for Christians, but it also can be, as other celebrations can be, one of those times that brings pure hope to the world."
Slover, an associate professor in the University of Utah's theater department, is sharing his love of the Christmas season in his new book, "The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus."
"The Christmas Chronicles" didn't start out as a book. Rather it began as group of stories, or explanations that Slover told his two boys when they were growing up.
The boys, like a lot of kids, had questions about Santa Claus and how Christmas works. Slover would just tell them the answers. And that's the tricky part, Slover said. For him, the answers always seemed like they were the obvious truth.
"Maybe that's why I told the stories with a lot of conviction," Slover said.
"Neighbor kids would talk about knowing where their presents were coming from and instead of doing the reasonable thing and saying, 'OK, well you got me,' I said 'Well, you're forgetting the Great Pact of 1737 — where anybody who gives presents in Santa Claus' name … Santa now assumes they'll take it from there and they're an automatic signatory to the pact, and if you want to get back on the delivery list, you have to apply in person.'"
In 2002, Slover tried to write the stories down in book form. He had some interest from a publisher, but he didn't really know how to write a novel and eventually abandoned the idea.
He revisited the stories again, however, in 2009, when Walter B. Rudolph, an executive producer at BYU's radio station Classical 89, suggested Slover turn the stories into a radio series. The radio format gave Slover the structure he needed, and "The Christmas Chronicles" became a radio drama heard not only in Utah, but because of streaming on the Internet, in New York, Boston and England as well.
The story caught the attention of an editor at Random House, and the editor gave him the guidance that allowed him to expand "The Christmas Chronicles" into a "really good book."
There's something about Santa Claus that just intrigues people, Slover said. To some degree, moral judgment is part of that, but for Slover, this judgment is just a bad rap — the naughty and nice business — that Santa got.
"It's right front and center in a lot of the mythology," Slover said, "but I don't think it's true."
In the same way that a really loving mother loves her child unconditionally, Santa is the pure spirit of giving without merit, Slover said. Yes, there will be others who need to correct wrongs, but Santa Claus is not that person.
"I think we need those people in our lives and maybe even in our lives as a culture and a community — that just pure spirit of giving and of hope that's nonjudgmental," Slover said. "I think that's the best of the Santa Claus stuff."
Slover has always loved Christmas and says it's hard not to have some kind of belief in Santa Claus. "I'm a pretty reasonable person," he said. "I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus because I've seen it in the world. I've seen it in many people's lives. … I believe in that and I believe that many people can therefore act as Santa Claus.
"For all I know, there is a guy who does it in some way. I don't want to eliminate the possibility. … I've come to think that there is something in the world and I've come to think people can be a part of it."
In addition to the release of his book, Slover's radio program has been enhanced. When listeners tune in this December, they will notice more music and sound effects. The program will air a number of times this month and can be streamed from the station's website through Jan. 2.
If you listen …
What: "The Christmas Chronicles"
When: Dec. 6-13 at 6 p.m. (one episode each evening), Dec. 21-24 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. (two episodes each day and evening), on-demand listening online Nov. 25-Jan. 2
Where: Classical 89 — 89.1 FM
If you go …
What: Reading and fundraiser
When: Monday, Dec. 6, 6:30-8 p.m.
Where: Communal Restaurant, 102 N. University Ave., Provo
How much: $10
e-mail: [email protected]