Jaded Christmas – December 2016

“Jaded Christmas” sounds like a terrible theme. The first idea was to find books that described the big holidays in fall/winter for a variety of religions, cultures, and countries.

That search got me nowhere fast. It did, though, send me stumbling over a forest of children’s books about Santa, elves, Czech Christmas carps, and any number of traditions without context. I got a bit frustrated and shifted my focus from feeling festive to recognizing Christmas has come to mean so many things to so many people, so my time might be better spent poking a bit of fun at it before getting down to how we’ve got where we are, Christmas-wise.

Santa Writes Back

It’s pretty safe to say this one and the employee handbook are not for kids. Well, they could be for kids if they were mature, sassy, slightly jaded teenagers.

It’s a proper push-back to the fluffy, nostalgia-heavy holiday, but with an undercurrent of world-weariness.

This isn’t the Santa you knew as a kid, and I can’t say as I liked him completely. By the end of the letters, I do have to say I felt a bit sympathetic to him and his endless, thankless job.

The North Pole Employee Handbook

I was really excited about the concept here. I enjoy making a story out of an unusual form – or at least I enjoy reading those. They’re tough to do well, and I’m sad to say this one came up a bit short.

That doesn’t make it awful, not by a long shot, but the reins got a little too loose for a formal employee handbook.

This was a very interesting lesson in playing in narrative form, so I’m going to do a bit more picking at this one in another post just to articulate what might make a project like this go from jokey to full-on clever.

Christmas in the Crosshairs: Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World’s Most Celebrated Holiday

I lapped this book up! Wonderful stuff, and well-balanced as far as a history text goes. If you’re really into the mythology and romanticism of Christmas, this probably isn’t the read for you.

This is not a soft and fluffy commentary on the holiday. Each chapter focuses on one of the battle grounds of Christmas, whether its dictators looking to enlist the holiday to promote their own agendas or Christian religions hating on the commercialism of the layperson’s way of celebrating it, this is a contemporary view on the holiday as a point of social contention.

My favorite part of this book was the history portion, which traces Christmas from its earliest forms to its current connections to family, children, and fantasy. It’s heavy on the more current social reformation battles, especially near the end, but that first portion puts the whole thing into a wide-lens perspective.

I do regret there wasn’t more of an entertaining tone, but this book was still fairly easy to get through and it didn’t drag with jargon or scholarly claims.

The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year

I had some expectations going into this book. Unfortunately, they weren’t met. That doesn’t make it bad, but it was a bit like expecting a public lecture on the subject and finding out you’d bought a ticket to a cooking/arts and crafts class with a teacher who has an entertaining air about her. So, good, but not what I’d hoped it would be.

I did some research on the author, Linda Raedisch, but it was just surface level. The woman lives her stuff, and has several books on arcane subjects. Essentially, she sounds like a Martha Stewart of the old world religions. Good on her!

Some of the material directly referenced magic I’d read back in September’s books, so it felt nice to run into them.

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