Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a holiday rich with traditions; in fact, no other holiday can compete with it in this respect. It is a fascinating mixture of Christian and pagan customs, so much so that, like intertwined threads in a multicolored tapestry, they can no longer be separated, although many devout Christians insist that the real reason for the holiday is the birth of Jesus Christ, and everything else is commercialized, pagan, and therefore superfluous.

The birth of Our Savior is, indeed, the fundamental reason for this holiday. Yet, the traditions that have become attached to the celebration of Christmas make it what it is today – a beautiful, joyful time of light, love, and peace.  Christmas traditions cannot and should not be done away with, for they give this holiday its distinctive style, which is strongly appealing at various levels of the human psyche, not the least of which is the emotional one.

The one basic theme of all of these traditions is that of loving relationship with God and one’s fellow human beings. The legend of Santa Claus, for example, is based on a real person, St. Nicholas, who gave gifts to poor children at Christmastime. Christmas trees blaze with lights and glittery ornaments, reminding us of the light of goodness that shines in the midst of the winter darkness. Mistletoe has long been used as an excuse to kiss that special person one loves, or would like to get to know better….

These traditions and customs also serve to remind us that the Christmas season is a time of miracles. If there really is no physical Santa Claus, still, the Christmas spirit is alive and well. It can move someone to make an anonymous donation where it’s most needed. An embittered veteran of a horrible marriage can suddenly encounter a new love, a new beginning. We can even entertain angels unaware…

Books are also, of course, an integral part of Christmas, especially such classics as Dickens’s A ChristmasCarol, as well as the story “The Gift of the Magi”,  by O’Henry. One of my own Christmas traditions, which I’m sure I share with many readers, is that of reading Christmas romances. If there’s anything truly magical in this world, it’s the magic of love, which can transform people and situations almost overnight. So, last year as well as this year, I went on a little shopping spree for such books, buying a couple of book lots on eBay, for instance. I have plenty of them now, so I need not fear that I’ll run out of romantic holiday material!

I especially enjoy Regency Christmas romances and paranormal Christmas romances. I recently reviewed the first installment of a series of three Silhouette Nocturne romances, dealing with Christmas and vampires, and am almost done reading the second.

Mary Balogh, my all-time favorite romance writer, has a number of absolutely beautiful Regency Christmas romances. One of them, which I read last year, is titled A Christmas Bride. I really should revisit it so that I can review it.

Another very nice Christmas read is A Magical Christmas Present, a paranormal anthology that I also read last year.

I’m currently reading another paranormal anthology, titled A Dreamspun Christmas, which I will soon be reviewing. This book was published back in the 1990’s, and it was one of my eBay acquisitions. As an inveterate book addict, I’m always buying books that attract me, with the intention of reading them at some time in the future…. So, this year, I went through my treasured collection of Christmas romances, and picked out this one. It’s not the only one I want to read, naturally. There will be more following! Give me plenty of romance at Christmastime!

Here are five other books I would like to investigate, as well.  Two of them deal with the central place of Jesus in the celebration of Christmas, while the other three are about the traditions associated with the season.

The first one, by Lawrence Driskill, is titled Christmas Stories from Around the World: Honoring Jesus in Many Lands

The next one, by Ann Christian Buchananan and Debra Klingsporn, is illustrated by Thomas Kinkade, and is titled Christ, the Light of the World: Celebrating the Glory of Christmas.

This one deals with the pagan customs that have become an integral part of the holiday.  It's titled, aptly enough, Pagan Christmas, and was written by Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling.  It is lavishly illustrated.

This one deals with the evolution of the holiday in the United States.  The title is Merry Christmas! Celebrating America's Greatest Holiday, and its author is Karal Ann Marling, who is a noted art historian.

This is a decorating book, with loads of beautiful pictures of Christmas trees and other holiday decorations.  It's authored by Debi Staron and Bob Pranga, together known as "Dr. Christmas".  The title is Christmas Style.

Ah, Christmas! The wreath is on the door, the tree is twinkling with lights and several types of ornaments, Christmas carols are sofly playing in the background, and I’m all curled up with my magical Christmas romance book, sipping some eggnog, although there is no blazing Yule log in my non-existent chimney, and no snow outside. This is Florida, and all we get is a bit of cold and rain…


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