The actual St. Nicholas was Turkish. St. Nicholas Day is December 6th, mostly celebrated in Europe.
First of all, let me point out that this Christmas Story has nothing to do with the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” featuring Ralphie. We all know that each holiday season there are new films about Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, or Father Christmas, but not many people know about the real man behind the ideas of Santa Claus.
This Finnish movie, Christmas Story, starts with a boy named Nikolas in a small village far up North. One cold winter night his parents must leave little Nikolas behind to take his sick sister to a doctor. On the way, they fall into an icy lake and drown. The village holds an emergency meeting to discuss who is going to take care of the new orphan. Since no family can afford to feed another mouth forever, the villagers decide to rotate poor Nikolas to a new home every Christmas. To show his appreciation, Nikolas starts to carve small toys, and gives them to children of his foster families each Christmas. Soon he wants to give toys to all the kids in the village.
A few years later, severe weather destroys the crops and kills the fishes in the lake, hence, no family is willing to take Nikolas. However, a grumpy and scary carpenter whom village children call “Crazy Iisakki” sees the wood carving talent in Nikolas, and he becomes Nikolas’ permanent guardian. Will Iisakki treat Nikolas like a son? Can Nikolas continue giving toys to children?
There is definitely a huge benefit of this being a foreign movie. Breath-taking landscapes, including snow covered hills and forests, buildings, and humble folktale-like costumes all contribute to make it an authentic winter wonderland. Moreover, this story covers more human-like and realistic explanations of the legendary figure – the red suit, the reindeer, the workshop, and the list of presents. The copy that I received came with the English-language dub only, and John Turturro does a great job voicing Iisakki. Nonetheless, I would love to watch it again in Finnish language to get an even more authentic feeling.
The film is certainly not as comical as Disney’s 1994 Christmas movie “The Santa Clause”, or as sweet/innocent as “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Since the main character goes through deaths of close relatives, orphanhood and hard labor, this Christmas Story may be a bit more appropriate for older children. However, it is still a heartwarming and moving story with its own magical moments. The relationship between Nikolas and Iisakki, and Nikolas' grief about his dead sister are neither dragged out nor overdramatic, but are very touching and convey inspiring messages. If you are seeking a holiday movie with a more authentic view of Santa Claus’ origins, I recommend this DVD.