Christmas: A Candid History

Christmas: A Candid History

Christmas: A Candid History

Christmas: A Candid History


Written for everyone who loves and is simultaneously driven crazy by the holiday season, Christmas: A Candid History provides an enlightening, entertaining perspective on how the annual Yuletide celebration got to be what it is today. In a fascinating, concise tour through history, the book tells the story of Christmas--from its pre-Christian roots, through the birth of Jesus, to the holiday's spread across Europe into the Americas and beyond, and to its mind-boggling transformation through modern consumerism. Packed with intriguing stories, based on research into myriad sources, full of insights, the book explores the historical origins of traditions including Santa, the reindeer, gift giving, the Christmas tree, Christmas songs and movies, and more. The book also offers some provocative ideas for reclaiming the joy and meaning of this beloved, yet often frustrating, season amid the pressures of our fast-paced consumer culture.


For three centuries Christians did not celebrate Christmas?

Puritans in England and New England made Christmas observances illegal?

St. Nicholas is an elf in the famous poem "The Night Before Christmas"?

President Franklin Roosevelt changed the dateof Thanksgiving in order to lengthen the Christmas shopping season?

Coca-Cola helped fashion Santa Claus's look in an advertising campaign?


I love Christmas. And Christmas drives me crazy.

Based upon reactions from family, friends, and colleagues, I am not alone in both responses to the Christmas season. On one hand, I love the music, lights, and family gatherings, along with the story of the Christ child, shepherds, and wise men, and the messages of generosity, love, joy, and peace. On the other hand, I am frustrated by how hectic and commercialized the season has become, and worried that all of the cultural trappings can overwhelm spiritual aspects of Christmas. At times the reality of my Christmas experiences fails to live up to my idealized expectations. In addition, I have questions about the impact that this culturally dominant holiday has upon my friends who are Jewish, or Muslim, or secular. So Christmas is my favorite season of the year, but it is also a very mixed bag.

After wrestling with various reactions to Christmas, I decided to find out how Christmas got to be the way it is today. Tracing the history of this annual celebration has changed the way I look at many Christmas-related . . .

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