This encyclopedia is described as a "truly comprehensive look at Christmas and all its customs" on its book jacket. It provides more than 1,000 entries on worldwide secular and religious Christmas practices expressed in song, literature, events, film, arts, and trivia and is aimed at young adult and adult readers as well as researchers. Entries are primarily descriptive, but a number of them, especially those on films, contain critical commentary.
The entries proceed from A to Z with a liberal number of black-and-white illustrations and 16 pages of color plates. An entry heading is in boldface if it is historical or factual; in italics if it is a book, film title, or foreign phrase; and in quotation marks if it is a song or short story title. Cross-references are in capital letters or given as a see item. Notable among the entries are Quotes about Christmas, which lists quotations related to the season; a chronology of December 25 events; discussions of films such as A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life; entries giving the histories as well as the words of individual songs and carols; and descriptions of practices like mumming.
A serious shortcoming is the lack of a detailed index, which would bring together the various songs, carols, films, etc., that are referred to within the various entries. Lack of a bibliography or list of sources is another weakness, as is the fact that the scope is not explained in the introduction. Some countries have been omitted, including much of Africa, India, Korea, and Turkey. Finally, the illustrations, though they are captioned, lack dates or sources. It is tedious to scroll through the Copyright Holder's page for this information.
On the positive side, the book is enticing reading with its many descriptions of exotic customs and its blend of the ancient and the modern. It is written well and concisely. Many of the older books on Christmas customs, now out of print or difficult to find, are admirably updated in this new volume, which can enrich high-school, college, and public library collections. RBB
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“Meticulously researched, well-written, and often downright funny, this encyclopedia does justice to its fascinating subject.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Wholly delightful and generally informative.”
From the Hardcover edition.