Christmas by Judith Flanders
A Biography

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Flanders’s previous book, on the concept of home, was analytical and illuminating, using clues from social history and architectural imagery to tease out ideas about the psychological value of living spaces. This one is more of a catalogue of colourful information, as much of a ragbag of cultural reference...
-Guardian

Synopsis

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, the Pope was already warning that too many people were spending the day, not in worship, but in partying and eating to excess. By 1616, the playwright Ben Jonson was nostalgically remembering Christmas in the old days, certain that it had been better then.

Other elements of Christmas are much newer – who would have thought gift-wrap is 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: A Biography, bestselling author and acclaimed social historian Judith Flanders casts a sharp eye on myths, legends and history, deftly moving from the origins of the holiday in the Roman empire, through Christmas trees in central Europe, to what might be the first appearance of Santa Claus – in Switzerland – to draw a picture of the season as it has never been seen before.

 

About Judith Flanders

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JUDITH FLANDERS is an international bestselling author and one of the foremost social historians of the Victorian era. Her first book, A Circle of Sisters, was published to great acclaim, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and her second book, Inside the Victorian Home, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards History Book of the Year. Judith is a frequent contributor to the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Spectator, and the Times Literary Supplement.  She lives in London.
 
Published October 24, 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books. 251 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Christmas
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes on Dec 22 2017

Dickens says that his reformed Scrooge “knew how to keep Christmas well.” Flanders knows how to tell its story well, and her reader comes away with a better understanding of, and even deeper appreciation for, this magical time of the year.

Read Full Review of Christmas: A Biography | See more reviews from Star Tribune

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Amy Bloom on Dec 01 2017

What Flanders shows most clearly is that holiday traditions are constantly being invented to give people what they long for, and that the heart of our most modern tradition...

Read Full Review of Christmas: A Biography | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Lucy Hughes-Hallett on Oct 16 2017

Flanders’s previous book, on the concept of home, was analytical and illuminating, using clues from social history and architectural imagery to tease out ideas about the psychological value of living spaces. This one is more of a catalogue of colourful information, as much of a ragbag of cultural reference...

Read Full Review of Christmas: A Biography | See more reviews from Guardian

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