Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders - review by Andrew Barrow

Andrew Barrow

A Time for Wassailing

Christmas: A Biography


Picador 246pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

This light-hearted, scholarly book offers a multifaceted portrait of Christmas over two thousand years. Rich in facts and trivia, it takes us all the way from the birth of Jesus Christ – only mentioned in two of the gospels – up to the consumerist society of today, when Christmas is celebrated all over the globe by millions not even nominally Christian. In the process, it embraces mince pies, mistletoe, the Christmas tree, Christmas cards, carols, candles, declining church attendance and – on a massive scale – food and drink.

An important early turning point must have been the establishment of an annual holiday stretching from Christmas Day to Epiphany. As long ago as 877, King Alfred the Great apparently ordered that these precious twelve days should be a single holiday when even servants should do no work. Had

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