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The World Encyclopedia of Christmas Paperback – October 5, 2004

4.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (October 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771015356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771015359
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.8 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,915,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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. The author hopes that in its more than one thousand articles you will find much that will delight, astound, and amuse you, and that, whatever the time of year, Christmas will take on a deeper meaning."

He notes, "'A Charlie Brown Christmas is more a morality play than a light-hearted romp. CBS apparently had misgivings about the religious content of the show---one of the few explicitly Christian films about Christmas---but this Charles Schulz creation won an Emmy for best children's program and went on to become an enduring holiday favorite." (Pg. 40)

He says, "It was St. Francis of Assisi who popularized the use of the crib, when on Christmas Eve in 1223 he restaged the original Bethlehem scene at Greccio, complete with a peasant family laying a baby in the hay of the manger, surrounded by a real ox, donkey, and shepherds." (Pg. 53-54)

He writes, "So the evidence of Christmas as a pre-fourth century celebration is slight... But this doesn't mean that Christians weren't curious about the date... Clement of Alexandria (c. 190) December 18, but he also thought it might be November 17; Hippolytus (c. 202) was the first to pick December 25; Julius Africanus (221) agreed with that estimate; an African tract on calculating Easter said December 28; Eastern theologians were keen on January 6; and a wide variety of other dates, especially in the spring, were also advanced." (Pg. 57)

He wrote, "In 1841 the first department store Santa Claus appeared in Philadelphia. J.W. Parkinson's store arranged for a real `Criscringle' to come down a chimney and astonish the assembled children.
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