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  • Christmas Unwrapped - The History of Christmas [VHS]
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Christmas Unwrapped - The History of Christmas [VHS]


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Product Details

  • Actors: Harry Smith, Peter Billingsley, Forrest Church, Melinda Dillon, Alan Dundes
  • Writers: Alison Guss, Clement Moore, Robert May
  • Producers: Alison Guss, Charlie Maday, Susan E. Leventhal
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: September 4, 1998
  • Run Time: 50 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0767005287
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,669 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

People all over the world celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. But why is the Savior's nativity marked by gift giving, and was He really born on that day? And just where did the Christmas tree come from? Take an enchanting journey through the history of the world's favorite holiday to learn the origins of some of the Western World's most enduring traditions. Trace the emergence of Christmas from pagan festivals like the Roman Saturnalia, which celebrated the winter solstice. Learn how Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to the English speaking world in 1841. And discover how the patron saint of children was transformed into Jolly old Santa Claus by British settlers in the New World. Come in from the cold for a Christmas celebration that has it all.

Customer Reviews

A must see for any fan of the Christmas holiday!
CKE
Anyway, this is a very fun and nostalgic look at the history of this holiday, and its pagan and Christian roots.
BRIAN A. O'DELL
This presents a fairly good and quick background of Christmas history.
P. Zucker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Tim Janson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 11, 2005
Format: DVD
This documentary originally appeared on the history channel back in 1997 and has been repeated every year. It has become a holiday favorite of mine even though I've seen it numerous times. It's narrated by "Early Show" host Harry Smith and traces the roots of Christmas back to its earliest beginnings as a pagan Roman holiday of feasting. We then see Christmas virtually outlawed by the Puritans but never forgotten. TRhe holiday would enjoy a rebirth in the mid 1800's thanks to several people including Clement Moore's poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas", and cartoonist Thomas Nast who helped define the look of Santa Claus.

From there we see the holiday further defined by popular culture in movies and TV and also by consumerism, as the holiday shopping season is invented and begins to really flourish at the turn of the 20th century. Nast gives way to Haddon Sundblom's Santa paintings that he did for Coca Cola, finally giving us the jolly, fat santa we know today. Throughout he documentary we get comments from historians such as Stephen Nissenbaum and Penne L. Restad who've written their own books about the origins of Christmas. And comments from Humorist jean Shepherd, whose works the famous holiday film "A Christmas Story" was based on.

It's a wonderful documentary. As a Christmas fanatic I only wish it would have been longer but I never tire of seeing this each year. One viewing and you're guaranteed to be filled with holiday cheer!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bill Egan on March 15, 2007
Format: DVD
Harry Smith does a nice job narrating this history of Christmas and is backed by a well-rounded and erudite group of experts on Christmas, religion, and folklore.

This documentary appeared on The History Channel ten years ago but it isn't outdated. It's nice to have for an annual Christmas season viewing.

Stephen Nissenbaum, Historian at the University of Massachusetts, reminds us that Christmas in old time England was really like a carnival similar to today's Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We also hear from Alan Dundes of the Folklore Department at U.C. Berkley, Leigh Eric Schmidt and Elaine Pagels, both of the Religion Department at Princeton University and A. W. Purdue, Historian at Open University in England.

For those who see a modern day conflict between the religious and secular aspects of the season, Penne L. Restad, Historian at the University of Texas, says that there has always been other ceremonies associated with the Christmas season in addition to Christ. This conflict goes back to the very first celebration of the liturgical feast.

The story reveals the Pagan roots for many of today's traditions and shows that many traditions we think "ancient" are recent inventions. It studies the cultural material of Christmas - trees, shopping, and songs.

Rev. Forrest Church, Minister at All Souls Church in New York City points out that people have deep needs to connect with family and friends during the Christmas season. This illustrates how Christmas is more than just a time to attend a church service; it's a time for family gatherings.

This year, why not gather with your family to view "Christmas Unwrapped."
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. J. Carew on December 8, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Okay, I have to admit, I am a person who likes to know why things are the way they are. So watching the history of various traditions of Christmas was a great experience for me. I think it's also a good learning tool for children. I mean, I don't want to go through the motions of putting up a Christmas tree because "that's the way it's always been done." It hasn't, and now I can tell my kids where all these traditions came from.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By P. Zucker on December 26, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This presents a fairly good and quick background of Christmas history. It is not fully comprehensive, but does cover the basics of the origin of the holiday from both pagan and christain backgrounds. It also includes the secular icons and how they came to be celebrated today.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By CKE TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 12, 2005
Format: DVD
For all of those you who beleive Christmas has become to "Commerecial" this is the documentary for you! You see, Christmas has always been "commercial" from the begining!

I do not want to spoil the documentary but here a few topics covered.

- Why December 25th was selected even though it probably was not the actual birthdate fo Christ.

- Why we have "Evergreens'

- The development of "Santa Claus"

- Why the firts generation of "Americans" (post 1776) did NOT celebrate Christmas.

- Why Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas after he overthrew the English Crown.

"Unwrapped" transports us throughout history and how the traditions and ideas of the holiday evolved. From the drunken festivals of medieval England to the movie "A Christmas Story" and its Red-Rider BB gun. "Unwrapped" effectively mixes the secular with the religous and shows us how and why wee celebrate it the way that we do. A must see for any fan of the Christmas holiday!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 15, 2006
Format: DVD
I love to discover the origins of things, because everything in life has a meaning and a purpose behind it. Events like Christmas are no exception. This DVD presentation by the History Channel covered the 3,000+ year history of the world's greatest holiday--its ancient origins in pagan festivals, the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and many other interesting aspects. I might've rated this DVD four stars, because it is not as fully comprehensive as other history sources. But since I don't believe that was the filmmakers' intentions, I believe they lived up to their intentions and therefore, I rate this five stars. I would strongly recommend this DVD to anyone wanting to know more about this very special holiday.
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