Review of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas is the latest in a series of books that Ace Collins has written that contain short, digestible write-ups of historical subjects. In previous books, he’s written about the stories behind gospel songs, hymns that inspired America, and Christmas songs.

In this book, he moves beyond music tackles the history of many of the traditions of Christmas, including Advent, Boxing Day, Candy Canes, Christmas Cards, Christmas Trees, Gift Giving, Holly, Mistletoe, Santa Claus, and many others. Think of anything you can think of that has to do with Christmas and the Christmas season, and chances are he’s written something up on it.

Each subject has about 7-10 pages dedicated to it, written in a pleasant easy-to-read style. I didn’t read one subject where I didn’t learn something new. Did you know, for example, that Martin Luther himself started the tradition of lights on a Christmas tree? Do you know what the word “epiphany” means (I didn’t despite years of hearing that word). Did you know the candy cane was invented in 1670 as a way to get children who fussed in a choir to settle down.

As you probably know, many of the older traditions of Christmas have their roots in pagan origins. Holly, for example, was important in Celtic mythology, the tradition of bringing evergreen trees inside was begun by Vikings, and Aztecs used poinsettias in their idol worship. The book doesn’t gloss over these, but does talk from a historical perspective about how early Christian missionaries and adherents transformed these traditions to make them teach a lesson about the life of Christ.

Overall, like Collins’s other books, it’s an easy read. There are a couple block print illustrations, but mainly to illustrate a concept in the stories. It’s not necessarily a book you’ll read cover to cover, but it is handy to have at your fingertips to find answers about different aspects of Christmas.