13 December 2015
A Very British Christmas
The Great British Christmas, compiled by Maria Hubert
Once many years ago at a book sale or used book store I found a volume called A Worcestershire Christmas, an anthology of poetry, prose, and illustration written by authors from or taking place in Worcestershire, England. I really enjoyed the collection of nostalgic prose, and was surprised some years afterward to find a similar volume, A Sussex Christmas. A little research revealed that the publisher, Sutton, apparently has done books for each of the English shires, plus included other locations (A London Christmas) and also books from certain eras (A Victorian Christmas, A Georgian Christmas, etc.)
This book is a collection of prose and illustration about what makes a British Christmas a British Christmas, from the history of the Sword in the Stone (which was raised by the future King Arthur during Christmastide) and the story of how the Puritans banned Christmas to the introduction of the Christmas tree to the celebrations by Prince Albert (the original decoration was an arrangement of hoops and holly called a Kissing Bough) and the Christmas cracker. Sprinkled between are Hogmanay and Twelfth Night, Christmas pageants, vintage village celebrations that toasted apple trees, and excerpts from diarists like Samuel Pepys. Included in its entirety is Dickens' classic essay "The Christmas Tree," which usually ends after the author describes "the new German toy," as he waxes on about his childish Christmas fantasies of yore.
If I could collect all these books, I certainly would!