Christmas A biography

Judith Flanders

Book - 2017

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.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press 2017.
Edition
First U.S. edition
Language
English
Physical Description
vii, 245 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9781250118349
1250118344
Main Author
Judith Flanders (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Christmas evokes both memories of the past and expectations for future celebrations, but Flanders (The Making of Home, 2015) posits that the holiday never was the quiet, thoughtful, religious observance we think it was. Separating fact from myth and traditional practice, Flanders provides a well-researched "biography" of how Christmas came to be observed through the ages and in various cultures. Elements of celebration included feasting, attending plays (both sacred and profane), and participating in revelry like the disguise-wearing mummers' parades. Her rambling study includes historical and popular culture references, so readers can expect to learn more about Saint Nicholas of Myra, understood to be the precursor to Santa Claus, along with movies like Holiday Inn and It's a Wonderful Life. Gift-giving traditions and the origins of gift wrapping are just two of many highlights in the book. Extensive and highly readable footnotes and end notes make this a pleasurable read. A calendar of important holidays is included, and readers are directed to more resources online. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

New York Times best-selling historian and author of the LibraryReads pick mystery series starring Samantha "Sam" Clair, Flanders documents Christmas as celebration, from an early pope's complaints about excess holiday cheer to the first holiday parade (not Macy's!). Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Flanders (The Making of Home) dispenses with cherished trappings and traditions in this investigation of Christmas, drawing a short line from Christmas's religious origins to its secular celebration. She begins by reporting on the ecclesiastical warning against excessive frivolity, which was issued by the Archbishop of Constantinople only 30 years after Christmas became a church festival in the late fourth century. Then she makes the case that Christianity slowly made itself a consumer product. Mythologizing Christmas by selling it, she argues, didn't start with the miniature ceramic Christmas villages of the 1970s or Coca-Cola ads in the '30s or even department store parades of the '20s, but has been a slowly building process that began almost as soon as Christmas became a widely practiced tradition. Although Flanders's voice sometimes disappears amid the cascade of facts, her well-structured argument lays to rest the idea that the celebration of Christmas is solely religious. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Oct.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The best-selling author of The Making of Home 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

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.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author explores the Christmas holiday, from the original festival through present day traditions. Christmas has always been a magical time. Or has it? Thirty years after the first recorded Christmas, one archbishop was already complaining that his flock was spending the day, not in worship, but in dancing and feasting to excess. By 1616, the playwright Ben Jonson was nostalgically remembering the Christmases of the old days, certain that they had been better then. Other elements of Christmas are much newer – who would have thought gift-wrap was a novelty of the twentieth century? That the first holiday parade was neither at Macy’s, nor even in the USA? Some things, however, never change. The first known gag holiday gift book, The Boghouse Miscellany, was advertised in the 1760s ‘for gay Gallants, and good companions’, while in 1805, the leaders of the Lewis and Clark expedition exchanged–what else?–presents of underwear and socks. Christmas is all things to all people: a religious festival, a family celebration, a period of eating and drinking. In Christmas, bestselling author and acclaimed social historian Judith Flanders casts a sharp eye on its myths, legends and history, deftly moving from the origins of the holiday in the Roman empire, through the first appearance of Christmas trees in Central Europe, to what might be the origins of Santa Claus – in Switzerland – to draw a picture of the season as it has never been seen before.