Today’s post is a quick intro to a few of the historical sources I like to use for my history of Christmas posts and research. What I love about the history of Christmas is that it is very approachable and quite often uses cultural and social sources that are fun to work with! I’ve been asked in the past to share the books that I use, so these are my favourite historical books that touch on the history of Christmas!
I was incredibly lucky to take a History of Christmas class in my undergraduate, studying with Dr. Gerry Bowler, one of the leading historians of Christmas. Dr. Bowler is a charismatic and lively professor, and truly encouraged all of us to use whatever possible for our sources. His class is why I see everything as a possible source now, as one of my papers even featured Google Doodles as sources!
The World Encyclopedia of Christmas, Gerry Bowler
This is one of my favourite books, period, and permanently stays on my coffee table during the holidays! It is exactly what it sounds like, it is an encyclopedia of everything Christmas. Touching on everything from the Pagan holidays it is based on to the Puritanical sombre celebrations of Cromwell’s England to the modern war on Christmas, individual movies, books, and poems to the Santa-like figures in different countries. Entries rage from a short paragraph of a few sentences to several pages. It doesn’t get too in-depth with anything, but it is the perfect book to have on hand for those interesting holiday questions!
Santa Clause: A Biography, Gerry Bowler
We all had to know that a biography of Santa Clause would be fun! In terms of the history of Christmas, Saint Nicholas/Santa Clause looms larger than any other figure. Dr. Bowler traces Santa from his 4th century origins all the way through to the Coca Cola Santa we all recognise today. What I love about this book is that it touches on all of the different regional variations of St. Nicholas, and all of the different traditions associated with them. It also discusses the religious figure of St. Nicholas and the secular figure of Santa Clause (a divide that a lot of people don’t like to acknowledge).
Nutcracker Nation: How an Old World Ballet Became a Christmas Tradition in the New World , Jennifer Fisher
Going to see The Nutcracker is one of my favourite holiday traditions. It might not be the most technically demanding ballet ever choreographed, but I do believe that it is the most enchanting. Ironically, The Nutcracker was quite the flop when it first premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg, but it has taken an interesting journey to get to where it is today. I will be sharing a few posts on The Nutcracker in the next month, and will be chatting about the history of it, as well as what you can see now!
A Royal Christmas, Jeremy Archer
I have just started reading A Royal Christmas, and I am very much enjoying it so far. One of my lovely readers requested a post on the history of royal Christmases, and I have set out to learn more. There is a fantastic book coming out from the Royal Collection in mid-December, but I wanted to get started now. Beginning with Tudor Christmas and coming all the way to the present, Jeremy Archer looks at the traditions of the English/British royal family at Christmas through a range of primary sources.
I will have other books to share as well (I’ll share the books behind each post), but I wanted to get my favorites out now! Not all of my history posts from now until the end of December will be Christmas related, but there will be more coming.