© 1998 Christopher Moore and Pamela Johnson
The story is set in a Christmas long ago, when Nicholas and his friend Peter traveled from the Netherlands to the New World, after hearing that the children there were in distress. They find the town (New Amsterdam) enduring a poor harvest, a harsh winter, and on the verge of war with the natives. This being a Christmas story, Nicholas and Pete bring hope, peace, and friendship to the town and its perceived foes. Author Christopher Moore (not of Lamb fame) has produced a story that is a fascinating mix of fantasy, legend, and mythic history. I doubt many Americans are familar with the Dutch Christmas mythos, in which St. Nicholas arrives in town accompanied not by elves, but by a black man of Moorish descent named Piet -- or multiple black men. David Sedaris wrote about Christmas in Holland in the sketch, "Six to Eight Black Men". Although Sedaris revels in the absurdest aspects of the legend, here Moore presents the story of the two men in all seriousness. Their close friendship in a time of ethnic conflict should speak to American audiences, and despite playing fast and loose with both history and convention myth, the story itself is a charmer.