07 December 2014

Books for Christmas!

Some reviews for the second Sunday of Advent:

The Old Magic of Christmas, Linda Raedisch
I had this on my Amazon wishlist, so was chuffed when I found a copy, brand new, in with the Christmas books at the Friends of the Library Book Sale. I think it probably surprised someone who took a look at the subject matter and disposed of it posthaste.

This is not a book about Victorian Christmases or charming olde world Christmas celebrations: this volume goes back, way back to the pagan era, and the different gods, little people (elves, kobolds, boggarts, etc.), mythic figures, and dark creatures hiding in the winter nights that so frightened and awed the population which fought a never-ending battle against cold and hunger. In its pages we meet witches, the Wild Hunt, dark St. Nicholases dressed in fur and smutched with soot, the Yule Buck and other animals long ago associated with the winter solstice; characters from Nordic legend and German tales, goddesses who later became associated with the Christian story of Christmas (St. Lucy, La Befana), the Yule Lads  who commit mischief and the Kallikantzari who are more sinister. Plants associated with Christmas are also discussed.

I have several books of pagan Christmas lore, and Raedisch still surprised me with Yule tales I hadn't heard. She also sneaks sly, humorous references to present media in the text, which keeps it from being a dry recitation of old legends. A must for those interested in the ancestral antecedents of the modern Christmas celebrations.

A Christmas Story Treasury, Tyler Schwartz
This is a thin but oversized gift book tribute to the now-classic 1980 film that did terribly at the box office (because it was pulled five weeks after release and wasn't available for Christmas) and became a tradition—and a hit—via cable TV. (I saw it for the first time on HBO; by the time I went to the theatre, it was gone.) It's chock-full of color stills from the film, tidbits about the origin of the story and its filming, and eight nifty buttons at the side that you can press to hear actual dialog from the movie. But wait, Red Ryder aficionados, there's more: an envelope in the back that contains goodies like Ralphie's Radio Orphan Annie membership card, a reproduction of the original movie poster, and more.

This book originally sold for $25, but these days you can get it for a more reasonable $10 on the remainder stacks at Barnes & Noble. At that price it's perfect for reliving your memories of Scut Farkas, not putting your arms down, Christmas themes, Chinese turkey, and shooting your eye out!

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