All Illustrations by Elissa Weaver
The Gift Giver is a children's story book about the origins of the man we have come to know as Santa Claus, written and developed by Jacob Haslem and Nicholas Allen. Jacob Haslem came up with the idea during the Christmas season in 2013 while trying to teach his 4-year old son about the true meaning of Christmas. During a simple family night, he had an epiphany. Here is his accounting of how the Gift Giver came about:
" As my wife and I read and explained the story of Christmas from the Bible, we saw our son's very modest interest. He struggled to grasp how it related to everything else he knew Christmas to be: Santa Claus, Christmas trees, snowmen, lights, candy, and gifts. It was not the first time he had been told that we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus Christ, but he still couldn't understand how Santa Claus and presents were connected to Jesus Christ. I thought to myself, 'how can I help him understand how all those things came from the birth of the Savior?' The person he most identifies with Christmas is Santa Claus. I think he is an icon for the holiday to most 4-year olds. I asked him why he thought Santa Claus brought us presents. He couldn't come up with a good reason for why he brought us gifts, and so I explained to him that Santa claus used to be called Saint Nick. Being a saint meant that he was a very good person, and that he loved Jesus. I then told him that the gifts Santa brings to us were a symbol for the gift that God gave us in giving His Son, Jesus Christ, to the world. Those gifts were meant to be a reminder of his ultimate gift to all people, everywhere. After that brief lesson, I wondered to myself, 'how many other young families are confronted with this same problem of trying to insert the real meaning of Christmas before the world's commercialized version of Christmas has a chance to distort what the holiday is really all about?' The commercialization is fun, and gives kids an extra incentive for good behavior, but it ultimately leaves us to celebrate two separate and distinct Christmases: the fun Christmas and the Christ Christmas. thus, The Gift Giver was thought up to meld the two."
What we really hope to accomplish with The Gift Giver is to help families teach their children the true meaning of Christmas without taking away from the "magic and wonder" of the holiday, and to do it in a fun and enticing way. I truly believe that whatever leads us to do good works is of God. Therefore, when I came up with the concept, I wanted to be respectful to our cultural traditions that lead us to do good, but also be bold in the affirmation that we celebrate Christmas to remember our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Personally, I grew up believing in Santa Claus for a long time. I loved the wonder that surrounded a man with such a big heart whose singular purpose, it seemed, was to award children with gifts for being good people. That is a just cause. I don't believe the two have to be at odds. In defining Santa Claus' motives for giving gifts, and in telling his origin story, we completely redefine the way we think of him. In delving in to who Saint Nick really was, we came to the conclusion that he must have been close to what we wanted to portray him to be in the book: selfless, humble, and ever-grateful for all that God had given him; never wanting praise or attention, but working, rather, to help people remember and celebrate the Savior.
So, to sum it up, our mission is to change and redirect the culture of Christmas back to its true meaning and purpose. Instead of stomping on our modern, cultural tradition, we've tried to use a part of it as a tool to further celebrate the birth of the Savior. We hope that the story helps families remember all that the Lord did and taught, and encourages, at least for a season, to try to be more like Him. We hope that people will read The Gift Giver every year as a part of their holiday traditions, and that it is a book that families of all ages can enjoy. Most of all, we hope that it helps invite the spirit of Christmas. Because, when we catch that spirit, we become better people.
- Jacob Haslem