Christmas Past by Brian Earl: 5*****

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Wassail, eggnog, movies, traditions, you name it and it is all here in this wonderful new book by Brian Earl as he gives us the story behind so many of our now familiar Christmas traditions.

            There are many books that come out regarding Christmas at this time of year from mysteries to novels to non-fiction, but if there is one book to read and even purchase in my opinion it is “Christmas Past.”  We blindly follow traditions year after year and yet we have no idea how these came into being. Oh sure, we are pretty positive that our current version of Santa Claus is a more recent creation, but to learn all about Kris Kringle and the origins of Santa are completely different from our Santa today. And this goes on and on for 26 short yet well researched chapters in this book filled with facts, history and pictures.

            I received an advance e-book copy of this book and read most all of these chapters out loud to my wife. It made us laugh and be amazed, and about halfway through this e-book copy I decided that this book was so good that I wanted it in my permanent home library and so I ordered a hardback copy. Yep, that’s how much I liked this book and want to keep it for future reference. I loved the chapter on Wassail and the history behind this. Few of us make Wassail, let alone drink from a Wassail Bowl, but when you realize this all comes from an English tradition of estate owners greeting members of their village and welcoming them into their homes, it made me realize there is much that has been lost in our current version of these traditions.

            Consider the word Merry! How many times do we use the word Merry other than during the Christmas season. We say “Have a Merry Christmas” and “May your days be Merry and bright” but other than that I must admit merry is not in my everyday vocabulary until Christmas. We don’t wish people a Merry New Year, or Easter, or St. Patrick’s Day, or Columbus Day, Valentine’s Day or Independence Day. Nope, Merry goes only with Christmas! And, the use of the phrase, Merry Christmas, has grown from its adaptation here in the US. Even though this is derived from a saying in Great Britain, the Brits don’t say Merry Christmas, instead they say Happy Christmas, and there is a reason for that. And now I know that reason, as the author delivers tidbits of information for so many things we thought we knew and take for granted.

            So, this is a simple, easy to read, fun-filled book for the whole family, and reading it is contagious as I now want to add some of these traditions into our own family celebrations this Christmas season. And with that in mind, I must head off because for the first time ever we are going to make and serve Wassail in case anyone wants to come by and partake from our Wassail Bowl. Merry Christmas everyone!

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