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The World Encyclopedia of Christmas [Kindle Edition]

Gerry Bowler
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $7.99
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

At last, a truly comprehensive look at Christmas and all of its customs with its long history around the world. The World Encyclopedia of Christmas contains articles on the history of Christmas baking, drinking, and merrymaking, and Christmas dramas, music, literature, art, and films. It includes entries on the evolution of the Christmas tree and the Christmas card, gift-giving, and decoration of church and home. There are profiles of the many gift-bringers, from Santa Claus to Babouschka, and miraculous tales of the numerous saints associated with the season. And there are histories of seasonal celebrations and folk customs around the world, from the United States to Japan, from Egypt to Iceland.

Who, for example, knew the links between the Punch and Judy show and Christmas? That the medieval Paradise tree hung with tempting apples was the forerunner of the Christmas tree? About the Peerie Guizers, who terrorized the Shetland Islands, going door-to-door for Christmas charity? Or what Freudians make of our interest in Christmas stockings and Santa’s entrance through the chimney? There are detailed accounts of Wren Boys and Star Boys, mumming and wassailing, the Feast of Fools and the origins of eggnog. And of course stories of the Nativity and legends of the Magi.

With beautifully illustrated accounts ranging from the pagan roots of Yuletide, through the birth of Christ, and the long and fascinating history of the festival ever since, The World Encyclopedia of Christmas, is a rich and continually surprising array of religious and secular history, trivia, literature, and art. This wonderful book deserves to find a home with every family that celebrates Christmas.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This encyclopedia is described as a "truly comprehensive look at Christmas and all its customs" on its book jacket. It provides more than 1,000 entries on worldwide secular and religious Christmas practices expressed in song, literature, events, film, arts, and trivia and is aimed at young adult and adult readers as well as researchers. Entries are primarily descriptive, but a number of them, especially those on films, contain critical commentary.

The entries proceed from A to Z with a liberal number of black-and-white illustrations and 16 pages of color plates. An entry heading is in boldface if it is historical or factual; in italics if it is a book, film title, or foreign phrase; and in quotation marks if it is a song or short story title. Cross-references are in capital letters or given as a see item. Notable among the entries are Quotes about Christmas, which lists quotations related to the season; a chronology of December 25 events; discussions of films such as A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life; entries giving the histories as well as the words of individual songs and carols; and descriptions of practices like mumming.

A serious shortcoming is the lack of a detailed index, which would bring together the various songs, carols, films, etc., that are referred to within the various entries. Lack of a bibliography or list of sources is another weakness, as is the fact that the scope is not explained in the introduction. Some countries have been omitted, including much of Africa, India, Korea, and Turkey. Finally, the illustrations, though they are captioned, lack dates or sources. It is tedious to scroll through the Copyright Holder's page for this information.

On the positive side, the book is enticing reading with its many descriptions of exotic customs and its blend of the ancient and the modern. It is written well and concisely. Many of the older books on Christmas customs, now out of print or difficult to find, are admirably updated in this new volume, which can enrich high-school, college, and public library collections. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“Meticulously researched, well-written, and often downright funny, this encyclopedia does justice to its fascinating subject.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Wholly delightful and generally informative.”
Calgary Herald

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 41774 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (October 23, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009MYAX0W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #769,613 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read this Christmas Season! November 8, 2000
Witty and authoritative, the World Encyclopaedia of Christmas is not only fun for casual reading but it has also served me well as a resourceful reference book. With such a wide array of entries including movies, an exhaustive history of Christmas, important historical events, ethnic traditions and carols, I was unable to find anything about Christmas that wasn't there! This comprehensive book exceeded all my expectations and made this my must read for the Christmas season and beyond. It is definitely going to be a Christmas gift in my family!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite Christmas Book March 23, 2005
I enjoyed every entry of Dr. Bowler's fascinating encyclopaedia. It is rich not only in folk traditions but also in terms of popular culture. There are many entries on Christmas films, modern fairy tales with a Christmas theme, carols, art, festive food, legends of flowers and plants associated with the Christmas season.There are also entries on Christmas games as well as biographical entries. Interesting details are shared about customs from a wide variety of countries and regional traditions of the British Isles are also represented. There is also a rich collection of technical terms from various languages that pertain to Christmas and New Year traditions. One very minor weakness of this book (apart from a lack of index and bibliography) was that it needed perhaps tighter editing with the use of some of these foreign words. For instance, in the excellent entry on Greece the correct word for carols is 'kalanda'(which is already plural in form) not'kalandas'. Moreoever, for consistency the Greek Christmas cookies 'loukoumathes' and 'kourabiedes' should not be spelt with different suffixes since they have the same penultimate consanant and should end in '-adhes'(i.e. loukoumadhes and kourabiedhes - the 'dh' beiong pronounced like the 'th' in 'then' rather than the 'th' in 'thin'). Moreover, the Romanian custom of the 'sorcova' in which children "tap their elders lightly with a small branch" is unlikely to be "derived from the word for 'forty'" as the author suggests. I would argue that this word is a cognate of the Northern Greek and Bulgarian word 'sourva'(this word is missing) which is a type of branch (usually from the cornel tree) which is used for tapping people at Christmas and New Year for good health. The author does provide some interesing related entries on 'holming' and 'beating'. Read more ›
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great collection January 9, 2001
I had heard about this book from a friend and didn't believe it could be so comprehensive or complete. When I saw it in the local bookstore, I was astonished at the breadth and depth of coverage of Christmas and the many customs which are associated with it from all around the world.
Over Christmas, a family discussion of Christmas activities in cultures not familiar to my own resulted in a look at the appropriate item in the encyclopedia, followed by a virtual cornucopia of additional reading as everyone suggested inquiries and questions, all of which were referenced. Hats off to Dr. Bowler!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of a Kind October 27, 2004
With the high volume of anecdotal books on Christmas, it is hard to find an author who takes the time to examine primary sources and check the facts. The World Encyclopedia of Christmas is a rare find, for Dr. Bowler takes the time to carefully examine traditions, old and new, with a fresh and insightful perspective. I recommend it for all audiences, academic or otherwise, because Bowler's humor is enough to sustain all levels of interest.

Kate Penner--Yale University
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is Boxing Day, anyway? December 13, 2000
This is a fantastic book for Christmas lovers. Bowler covers a wide range of Christmas customs from around the globe, and includes everything from the words of Christmas carols, poems, and sayings, to Christmas film reviews, stamps, and other things merry that have created the holiday season around Christmas and New Years. This isn't a dry work of academia either, Gerry Bowler's wit shines through in a number of passages. This book is a welcome addition to the world of Christmas and a definite must-have!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Super! May 13, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The World Encyclopedia of Christmas" is exactly that, and it does not disappoint! Although it lacks an index, it is well worth having.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional March 14, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very comprehensive and well organized reference guide. It is extremely useful for learning about the history and traditions of Christmas.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book to add to a Christmas collection.
This is a wonderful book, to be read and reread.I particularly enjoy the descriptions of how countries celebrate Christmas. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Luellen Best
5.0 out of 5 stars excelent
Great encyclopedia, everyone should have one ! Fabulous resource for everything related to Christmas and all the events around new years eve.
Published 6 months ago by Florin Popescu
Author Gerry Bowler wrote in the Introduction to this 2000 book, "This book tries to gather all of the various meanings, symbols, and expressions of Christmas in one volume. Read more
Published on December 21, 2011 by Steven H. Propp
5.0 out of 5 stars very informative, includes more current entries than expected.
Very pleased with this book, not just a rehash of old information. Contains words and backgrounds to carols, good bw illustrations, many recent references, hours of good reading if... Read more
Published on November 17, 2009 by E. DELCHER
4.0 out of 5 stars Correction to my review of June 11, 2001
I must correct a typographical error. I stated that there were 227 numbered text pages. There are actually 257.
Published on June 19, 2001 by William Crump
4.0 out of 5 stars Hybrid Between an Encyclopedia and a Coffee-Table Book
The positive side: This encyclopedia is quite comprehensive, with more than 1,000 entries that cover a wide range of subjects in relatively small space (257 numbered text pages). Read more
Published on June 11, 2001 by William Crump
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