cover image Christmas: A Biography

Christmas: A Biography

Judith Flanders. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-11834-9

Flanders (The Making of Home) dispenses with cherished trappings and traditions in this investigation of Christmas, drawing a short line from Christmas’s religious origins to its secular celebration. She begins by reporting on the ecclesiastical warning against excessive frivolity, which was issued by the Archbishop of Constantinople only 30 years after Christmas became a church festival in the late fourth century. Then she makes the case that Christianity slowly made itself a consumer product. Mythologizing Christmas by selling it, she argues, didn’t start with the miniature ceramic Christmas villages of the 1970s or Coca-Cola ads in the ’30s or even department store parades of the ’20s, but has been a slowly building process that began almost as soon as Christmas became a widely practiced tradition. Although Flanders’s voice sometimes disappears amid the cascade of facts, her well-structured argument lays to rest the idea that the celebration of Christmas is solely religious. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Oct.)