This is a very informative, often surprising and very well-researched history into the origins and evolution of various Christmas traditions.
The author performed much mythbusting around public notions of Christmas being a more religious, less commercial festival "in the good old days" - in fact, the sources suggest that Christmas has always been more strongly associated with feasting, drinking and commerce than with religion. Even the more religious-seeming traditions such as nativity scenes and carols had secular origins rather than religious ones.
These investigations into the history of Christmas also, directly and indirectly, reflect upon the difficulties of historical research, and people's insatiable desire for nostalgia and myth-making. Over and over, the authors showed that, i) people naturally assumed that things were better in the olden days (while conveniently forgetting the worse aspects); and ii) how quickly certain traditions gain an ancient aura (eg certain ceremonies that were, in fact, only 15 years' old were readily believed to be "since time immemorial").
Despite its festive topic, it is not a light "holiday read" - while the contents are entertaining, it is quite an academic and information-dense work. You need a bit of concentration to keep track of the various historical sources quoted. Read it carefully and you will be rewarded with a much improved experience.
Interesting overview of the whole Christmas thing - what we think it is, what we want it to be, and what it really is.
I enjoyed this book and learned a lot about how the celebrations of Christmas evolved over time. You can read the whole book or just the chapters you are interested in. I would highly recommended to a casual reader or someone interested in authenticated history.
Wanted to like this more but it came down to Christmas is banned, no, it's not, yes, it is, etc. Wish there were a lot more tidbits.
A little disorganized, and I don't know that anyone would read all the quoted old poems, but full of interesting tidbits about the history of Christmas.
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