Sunday, January 6, 2019

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas By Ace Collins - Book Review

From the publisher: The fascinating stories and origins behind Christmas traditions such as the colors of red and green, the Christmas tree, caroling, nativity scenes, the Yule log, gift-giving, stockings, advent wreaths, mistletoe, and holly.

The cheer of a crackling hearth fire. Colorful cards from friends and loved ones. An evergreen tree festooned with ornaments. The golden traditions of Christmas—gifts, wreaths, stockings, carols, mistletoe, and more—infuse our celebration of the season with meaning and glowing memories. And, in ways you may not realize, they point us to the birth of Christ. Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas reveals the people, places, and events that shaped the best-loved customs of this merriest of holidays. Here are spiritual insights, true-life tales, and captivating legends to intrigue you and your family and bring new luster and depth to your celebration of Jesus’ birth. Discover how

  • after eighteen centuries of all but ignoring the event, churches began to open the door for believers to commemorate Jesus’ incarnation.
  • the evergreen tree, once a central theme in the worship practices of pagan cultures, came to represent the everlasting love of God.
  • the magi’s three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—are filled with spiritual symbolism.

The traditions of Christmas lend beauty, awe, and hope to the holiday, causing people all over the world to anticipate it with joy. The stories in this book will warm your heart as you rediscover the true and eternal significance of Christmas.

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas (this is new edition of a book previously published) by Ace Collins is less a history book and more a collection of essay-type writings. There are 26 different chapters, which are all self-contained. Each chapter focuses on one "tradition" (I use the word loosely, as they are Christmas-related but I wouldn't call each a tradition). Collins details the history behind the tradition, and explains how it got from where it began to where it is/how it is observed today.

Chapters include obvious topics like Angels, Advent, Gifts, Holly, and Mistletoe, but have other more unusual topics like Birthday Cake for Jesus, Christmas Seals, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Boxing Day, and Xmas. I decided to read a few chapters sort of at random, picking topics that sounded interesting to me. So, I read Advent, Movies of Christmas, and Santa Claus (as well as skimming through Xmas).

What I found was that there was some really in depth information with interesting facts about each topic. Each chapter was very readable, but my interest level varied depending on the topic. The chapter on Advent was rather dry for my tastes, but very informative, particularly for someone who grew up in a church that observed advent. I'm a huge fan of Christmas movies, so discovering the history of several popular movies really engaged me. I also found the chapter on Santa Claus full of fascinating facts. I thought I was pretty well informed on the man in red, but there is a lot more to his story than I realized. In fact, I found out that Coca-Cola advertisements had a large role in how we picture Santa today!

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas is a fairly short book that can be read in multiple sittings. Its easy to pick it up, read a couple of chapters (each between 6-10 pages, basically), and then set it down again for another time. Ace Collins's book would make a nice gift to anyone who is interested in Christmas or who just loves celebrating the season. I would recommend it to Christmas fans.

I received a review copy of this book from Zondervan's Book Look Bloggers program.

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