Christmas: A Biography
Book Review - Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders
Growing up, my parents always made Christmas morning magical. I would go to sleep, leaving cookies and milk out for Santa. When I woke up (always VERY early) the stockings would be overflowing and more presents magically appeared under the tree. I would check on the cookies I left out and they'd always be gone with just a few cookie crumbles left on the plate. My parents always had Christmas music playing when I woke up and I would sleepily emerge in the living room ready to open presents!
Christmas mornings haven't chanced much since I was a kid. We no longer leave out cookies and milk, but somehow every night when I go to bed the stockings are empty and each Christmas morning, when I sleepily emerge in the living room the stockings are overflowing. The biggest change? I now often wake up before my parents and have to wait until I hear them stir downstairs and cue up the Christmas music before we can begin opening presents.
I was SO excited to read this book, Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders. I am fascinated with the history of how our Christmas customs came to be. Why do we set up a Christmas tree?Why do we decorate it with lights and ornaments? Where did stockings come from? How did Santa Claus come to be? All of these questions (and more I never thought to ask) are answered in Judith Flanders' book. She begins when Christmas was established on December 25th, discussing how that date was chosen and takes us through all the changes Christmas has undergone throughout history.
In the news we often hear about "Christmas Creep" - how Christmas decorations seem to appear earlier and earlier, how stores seem to play Christmas music way too early, and how none of us are ready to see Christmas advertisements before Halloween. When, you might wonder, did Christmas creep begin? Well, way before any of you were born. Christmas advertisements began in the 1700s and were often seen as early as October. So although we think Christmas creep is a thing, its really been happening long before any of us can remember it being any different.
You also might wonder when Christmas became so secular...well, pretty much since the beginning. A mere 30 years after Christmas was established on December 25, the day turned into a day for drinking and feasting with family and friends. Learn about this and more in Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders. I will warn you, though, at times the book reads very academic as if an academic paper had been turned into a book. It is dense with content and often I get lost in the details. But at the same time, I learned a lot and was fascinated by what I read! It certainly makes for great conversation over the dinner table!
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