Christmas: A Biography Hardcover – 19 Oct 2017
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Flanders covers every aspect of Christmas . . . [Christmas: A Biography] is . . . a catalogue of colourful information, and as surprising an assortment of items as any you might find heaped up under a tree. (Lucy Hughes-Hallett Observer)
A well-researched account. There are more footnotes here than there are presents under a Rockefeller Christmas tree. Indeed, the book is stuffed with facts – enough to satiate even the most ravenous postprandial taste for quizzing. (Sunday Times)
[An] entertaining biography . . . Following the fine tradition of light entertainment Christmas books, Judith Flanders provides lots of trivia . . . However, there is much more to it than that. Flanders is a respected social historian, best known for studies on Victorian life, and the strength of this warm book lies in its quiet erudition. (The Times)
If you do want to think about the actual meaning of Christmas, why it still matters to us so much, the book you need is Christmas: A Biography by the cultural historian Judith Flanders . . . which traces its “strange hybrid growth” all the way back to its origins. (David Sexton Evening Standard)
A definitive, myth-busting new book . . . [Christmas: A Biography] tells the full history of the festival that owes it beginning to Roman celebrations of the winter solstice with some fascinating revelations along the way. (The Lady)
Who could say bah-humbug to this sprawling-yet-accessible history, which examines traditions with all the trimmings. (Irish Sunday Independent)
A superabundance of information about holiday practices, drawn not just from Britain, North American, the Commonwealth and Continental Europe (especially Germany), but from wherever Christmas is celebrated – even, at its most secular and idiosyncratic, in Japan. (TLS)
Little escapes Flanders’s notice, as she reflects on the film It’s a Wonderful Life, the nation-binding importance of Britain’s annual carol concert from King’s College, Cambridge, or the financial dependence of local ballet companies on performances of The Nutcracker. Throughout, too, her writing remains brisk and witty: She alludes to the seasonal tradition of reading ghost stories, “while the children break their new toys around you.” (Washington Post)
Judith Flanders . . . likes Christmas (I think), but she loves reality and its awkward, amusing facts. (A previous book of hers, Inside the Victorian Home, is deep, bright and encompassing.) (New York Times)
This informative and entertaining history is an absolute delight. (Woman & Home)
The acclaimed author of The Victorian House and The Victorian City tells the story of the celebration of Christmas, from mummers' plays to the invention of Sellotape, revealing much fascinating new information and shattering many myths.See all Product description
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A lot of this detail was of course pretty interesting, but at times the interesting stuff was lost in the midst of the unnecessary detail. It was essentially an academic look at a non-academic subject, a sociological history.
Good for what it is, just ensure what it is is what you want.
The Day is full of traditions, myths, stories and symbols. It is these that the author explores. She examines, as have many, the gospels of Luke and Matthew and finds them unconvincing about the birth of Christ. The story of a census does not gell with historical facts. Women were not included in censuses so why did a heavily pregnant Mary have to accompany Joseph? This is only one of many discrepancies. The choice of 25 December is also dubious. Many biblical scholars believe 17 April or 15 September are far more likely dates.
Medieval Christmas was not a time to celebrate the birth of Christ it was a time for eating, drinking and entertainment. In any case what was important was the day of baptism rather than the physical birth. Entertainment was regarded as more important on the birth day than religious liturgy. The festive season says Flanders has been a time of excess since it began.
Modern commercialism has not debased Christmas. Certainly not as much as we think, according to the author of this provocative account by an historian. She covers a lot of ground in under 300 pages. Dickens gets a mention as does someone who has worked as an elf in Macy's.
Flanders tells of the role of charities in c celebrations. Hogglers in the north of England collected money at Christmas. Colemans of mustard fame gave each employee a roast joint. Prisoners got extra beef and beer.
Flanders engrossing account explains how the Christmas we know today has assimilated traditions from many cultures while always keeping the focus on the family.
This is a well -researched book. The notes are impressive. There are facts galore. This book provides ample questions for the post mince pie quiz. For example, how many knew that once crackers were invented using sweets wrapped in paper treated with saltpetre the firm Tom Smith in Clerkenwell was inside a decade making 13 million crackers a year?
Not all readers will feel this book provides all the answers to the mystery of Christmas but Judith has written a fascinating and informative account that ought to provoke debate while devouring the turkey.