A number of years ago I stumbled across Brian Earl’s podcast CHRISTMAS PAST during my seemingly never-ending search for additional Christmas content. Brian’s podcast explores the long-standing traditions which make up the holiday seasons while also trying to uncover their often elusive origins. The episodes are pretty short, usually under fifteen minutes each, but pack in a wealth of information. Somewhere along the way, Brian had the idea to compile some of his research into a book. Thus, CHRISTMAS PAST: THE FASCINATING STORIES BEHIND OUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY’S TRADITIONS was born.
Like the podcast, Brian doesn’t overstay his welcome. Contained within are twenty-five short chapters exploring the backstories of everything from wassail to classic Christmas movies to poinsettias and so much more. Brian does a great job in laying out each topic and through interviews with specialists, provides a broad look at each topic. Given that he has six years of work under his belt with the podcast, the book only scratches the surface of what Brian has uncovered over the years. That’s not a knock on the book’s depth; there is much here to learn.
For my experience, I opted for the audiobook as it seemed like the best way to experience Brian’s work. It’s a brief listen clocking in under five hours and one you can enjoy in bite sized sessions while doing your holiday shopping, baking or gift wrapping.
I’ve struggled over the years to find something like this book, one that explored the history behind my favorite time of year. Brian Earl has definitely knocked it out of the park with his book. I can only hope that given the breadth of Brian’s knowledge, he opts to put out a second volume at some point in the future.