by T.G. Crippen
I found this book in the library last year after hearing it referred to by Bill Bryson as "scholarly and ageless." It is a much easier read than Miles' 1912 book about Christmas customs and certainly more readable than Dawson's Christmas: Its Origins and Associations from 1902, which seems obsessed with how royalty spent the holiday (and which I have previously reviewed). Crippen's 1923 book begins with the origins of the holiday, continues with the various symbols of Christmas, celebrations through the ages, and also covers the other holidays around Christmas: St. Thomas' Day, St. Stephen's/Boxing Day, Childermas, the new year, and Twelfth-Night/Epiphany. You will find sections about the origins of wassailing and regional customs like Hogmanay and the "Mari Lwyd" in Wales, and some old-fashioned recipes for what sound today like gastronomic indigestion and beverages guaranteed to have you under the table. What I finally purchased was a reprint copy from 1972. A great addition to the library if you are interested in Christmas history.
Here's Bryson's commentary about the book and Christmas in England.