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Were They Wise Men or Kings?: The Book of Christmas Questions Hardcover – 19 Oct 2001

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster/John Knox Press,U.S. (19 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664223125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664223120
  • Product Dimensions: 26.3 x 18.4 x 1.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,844,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Joseph J Walsh is Associate Professor of Classics and History at Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Christmas is about everything. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Christmas book -- for children and adults 25 Nov. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have never before written a review, but I like this book so much I have abandoned (temporarily) my usual laziness. When I was younger, I loved the Christmas season, but I have grown tired of the emphasis on getting presents, especially for our children. This book reminds me why I used to enjoy Christmas.
The book communicates the Christmas spirit -- the religious and the secular (both of which I love). While I want my children (and me) to think about the meaning of the first Christmas, I also want them to enjoy the spirit of Santa Claus and George Bailey. In bite-sized chapters organized by questions and answers, the author tells the many stories associated with Christmas. To give a few samples, "Why does Santa come down the chimney?" "Have modern astronomers identified the Star of Bethlehem?" "When was Jesus born?" "Was Ebenezer Scrooge based on anyone in particular" "Where did the idea for the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" come from?
In my house, I have seen each of the five of us reading the book -- from the ten-year old who still believes in Santa to the fifty-year old Scrooge. I am grateful to the author for helping to bring the spirit of Christmas into our home.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Great Christmas Gift! 14 Nov. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully illustrated Christmas book provides straightforward answers to all kinds of Christmas questions--from the one on the cover (short answer: they were astrologers, something like wise men) to questions and answers about dubious Christmas marketing practices and the latest controversy about who wrote "T'was the Night Before Christmas." Not a religious book or a book for specialists, Were They Wise Men or Kings? dispenses information wittily in a format that encourages browsing as well as cover-to-cover reading. This would make a great Christmas present for someone who deserves more than a card but is difficult to please.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A graceful and witty little book 1 Dec. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a quirky, erudite little book that is sitting on my bedstand right now. Last night I read several entries, from Professor Walsh's haunting account of the Christmas Eve truce among German and British soldiers during World War I, to his witty response to the question "Why is Mistletoe so potent?"
There is clearly a lot of scholarship behind this book, but it is manifested with light grace. I read it with enjoyment, yet in a couple of years, so will my child. It's just a very compact volume, full of surprising and illuminating detail. I'd like to thank the professor for writing it.
Loving the answers 25 Jan. 2012
By Alex S - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This isn't just a quick answer book, it is a book of well-researched answers. It discussed both Scripture passages and historical realities, and is more of an encyclopedia than a simple story book.

Why does Santa come down the chimney?
Why do we celebrate Jesus birth on December 25?
What does Yule mean?
Why do we give gifts at Christmas?

There are actually 50 questions and answers in this wonderful resource. You probably aren't surprised that as a pastor I am asked a LOT of questions that aren't answered in the Bible, so I reread portions of this around Christmas time so that I have answers on hand. It never hurts to look like you know the answer.
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Joseph Walsh teaches classics and history at Loyola College, and has lectured at the Smithsonian Institution. In this 2001 book, he provides brief (1-3 pages) answers to 50 questions about Christmas, Santa, etc.

He writes in the Introduction, "I don't answer every interesting or significant question that you can think of about Christmas. I've got hundreds more myself. As I've already suggested, Christmas is about everything. I hope, however, that I've answered many of the most frequently asked questions while answering others that, though perhaps less frequently asked, explain just as much about our most important and cherished holiday."

Here are some more quotations from the book:

"Who wrote Santa's biography? L. Frank Baum... Baum titled his biography The Complete Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and published it in 1902, a couple of years after he had created a sensation with the publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 100th Anniversary Edition (Books of Wonder)." (Pg. 17)
"The idea of using festive greens was not Christian in origin, however. For centuries before the birth of Christ, pagans decorated their altars, temples, and sanctuaries with all sorts of greenery and flowers for celebrations... Even after the Roman Empire had been Christianized, many people continued to decorate their homes and houses of worship with winter greenery." (Pg. 25)
"The Church also may have contributed to mistletoe's peculiar power to compel a kiss. In the Middle Ages, people were encouraged to assemble 'Holy Boughs' of evergreens and decorations to hang near the doors of their homes... As visitors to these homes passed under a bough, they would be welcomed with a hug, a fitting expression of Christian community and love... Alas, no definitive evidence links kissing under mistletoe directly to pagan precedents or to the Holy Bough. It may be a descendent of either, or, in some complex way, of both." (Pg. 28)
"The Christmas season can be stressful, and some people become particularly depressed... That holiday depression can even help drive the most seriously affected to take their lives. But (that depression) is actually realted to the deprivation of light that winter brings, and recent studies seem to indicate that suicide rates go down at Christmas. According to one study, in fact, December has the lowest suicide rate of any month." (Pg. 92)
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