Behind every Christmas tradition is a story — usually, a forgotten one. Each year, as we decorate a tree, build a gingerbread house, and get ready for a visit from St. Nicholas, we’re continuing generations-old narratives, while being largely unaware of their starting chapters. But knowing how these traditions began adds a new level of depth to our Christmas spirit, as well as an arsenal of anecdotes to share at Christmas parties. Christmas Past: The Fascinating Stories Behind Our Favorite Holiday’s Traditions reveals the surprising, quirky, mysterious, and sometimes horrifying stories behind the most wonderful time of the year. With 26 short chapters, it’s a festive, digestible Advent calendar of a book. Covering traditions ancient and modern, Christmas Past is filled with stories of happy accidents, cultural histories, criminal capers (including tomb raiders and con artists), and hidden connections between Christmas and broader social, economic, and technological influences. How did the invention of plate glass forever change the Christmas season? What common Christmas item helped introduce fine art to the masses? Why do Americans typically spike their eggnog with rum, rather than the traditional brandy? And speaking of booze, does using the phrase “Merry Christmas” mark you as a drunken reveler? Christmas Past answers all of those questions, and many more.
Brian Earl is a designer, writer, and podcaster in Silicon Valley. He’s also one of those people who puts up the Christmas tree on Halloween and takes it down on Valentine’s Day. His Christmas Past podcast debuted in 2016 to immediate acclaim. With a storytelling and production style meant to mimic public radio news pieces, the podcast features expert guests and listener-submitted Christmas memories, all in bite-sized, 10- to 15-minute episodes. Brian has either been interviewed, or the podcast has received mention, in Vanity Fair, Modern Woman/USA Today, The Financial Times, Best Life, Bustle, Huffington Post, PopSugar, and many other local and national media outlets. Brian has also been a frequent freelance contributor to The Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, and several other Boston-area publications.
Christmas Past: The Fascinating Stories Behind Our Favorite Holiday’s Traditions reveals the surprising, quirky, and sometimes horrifying stories behind the most wonderful time of the year. With 26 short chapters, it is a festive, digestible Advent calendar of a book that is perfect fireside reading for the holiday season!
NetGalley Review: 4 stars
Last updated on 20 Aug 2022
"Christmas Past is a fun book that looks at current Christmas customs and follows them back to their roots. A wide variety of events fill the pages and some of these stories have some mighty strange beginnings.
I think this is a good book to have around and when taking breaks or just relaxing around the holidays you can read a chapter (or all!)"—Beth Emmerling, Librarian at Enoch Public Library
Last updated on Sep 28 2022
"This book is separated into 26 chapters, so you could feasibly read one chapter a day leading up to Christmas (if you start on the last day of November). This book is a very easy read, and is a book I would classify as a comfortable trivia book. It gives you short chapters that present the history behind many of the Christmas traditions that have either largely stayed the same, or evolved over the centuries since their introduction."—Spencer Wright, consumer reviewer
NetGalley Review: 5 stars
Last updated on 30 Sep 2022
"“Christmas Past” is a delightful book packed with just enough information to keep you entertained, but not overwhelmed.
Author Brian Earl, host of the very popular podcast “Christmas Past,” has gathered together the origins, reasons and details of diverse Christmas folklore and traditions, like eggnog, carols, Santa, gingerbread, staging “The Nutcracker,” and candy canes. (The red stripes on the famed Spangler candy canes are hand painted on, which really surprised me.)
Earl’s tone is self assured and lighthearted. He has a way of packing a lot of information into a short space, but the book never feels stuffed or jumbled. Each of the 26 chapters focuses on a popular Christmas item, tradition or folklore. I learned something new from every entry, and never felt like I was being given too much or too little information. The images and designs in the book are delightful as well, as they tend to be old ads or illustrations of common Christmas customs.
You could read this book in one sitting, but I took a few days to read it, because it’s so enjoyable. It would also be a great gift for kids ages middle school and up. Kids adore reading information nuggets, and these are especially accessible and easy to relate to.
I recommend “Christmas Past” without reservation!
Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book to review."—Kate Wolford, The Fairy Tale Magazine
Last updated on 15 Oct 2022
"Christmas, such a huge part of our lives and traditions, but where did it all come from, and how long have those traditions been around. In this delightful book about Christmas traditions, author Brian Earl has done the research and gives us the inside scoop on wassail, eggnog, caroling, Christmas movies, Christmas commercials, as well as why we say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Christmas (the Brits say that!). About 26 chapters about everything Christmas from food, to movies, to cards, wrapping paper, and so much more.
If you want to buy one book about Christmas than this is the one for you. Loved it in the Kindle version, and even ordered it for my permanent home library!!!"—SaraDeSantis, Librarian USC Upstate
Last updated on 30 Oct 2022
"Christmas Past is a charming look at where our Christmas traditions come from.
What I loved:
I loved the general premise of this book: to understand why we celebrate Christmas the way we do. Each chapter is dedicated to the story behind so many beloved traditions - wrapping paper, Christmas movies and carols, snow globes, Santa Claus, candy canes, and more. Reading this book is a delightful way to kick off the holiday season."—Kristyn Orgill, Woman in Time
Last updated on 03 Nov 2022
"Thank you so much to NetGalley and Rowman and Littlefield for my copy of Christmas Past The Fascinating Stories Behind Our Favorite Holiday's Traditions by Brian Earl in exchange for an honest review. It published November 1, 2022.
This podcast, turned book is just so neat! I really enjoyed the reading experience, due to Earl's podcasting experience, he translated it well to text.
The subject matter of this book was so fun, and I found every possible excuse to continue reading it! This would make an excellent gift for any Christmas-lover in your life!"—Megan Ireland, Bites Books Brews
Last updated on 05 Nov 2022
"CHRISTMAS PAST was such an interesting and educational read. There were so many things I had never heard of! Would make a fabulous hostess gift/door prize for any Christmas get together."—Lisa Kelley, Lisa K's Book Reviews
"Where do many holiday traditions and fixtures come from? What is the origin of Santa Claus? How did candy canes come about? Did people always kiss under a sprig of mistletoe? Most people will never know the answers to all of these questions unless you plan on spending hours on the internet doing searches. There is an easier way… read the book Christmas Past: The Fascinating Stories Behind Our Favorite Holiday’s Traditions, written by Brian Earl... This book is OVERFLOWING with text, facts, funny stories and more."—Kimberly Vetrano, She Scribes