A Biography

Book - 2017
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Presents a tour of Christmas holiday traditions from the original festival through today, touching on subjects ranging from gift wrap and the holiday parade to the first gag holiday gift book and the first official appearance of Santa Claus.
Publisher: New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2017
Edition: First U.S. edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781250118349
Branch Call Number: 394.2663 F6138c 2017
Characteristics: vii, 245 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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haklh Sep 26, 2018

3.5 stars.
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.

CircMary Jan 05, 2018

Interesting overview of the whole Christmas thing - what we think it is, what we want it to be, and what it really is.

Jan 02, 2018

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.

Dec 27, 2017

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.

Nov 07, 2017

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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