Picture the scene: Aunt Gertrude has just given you the most appalling Christmas tie, complete with snow-flecked kittens in a bowler hat. Do you smile, nod, and confine it to the bottom drawer? Or do you tell the truth and spare yourself future ties from hell? Kant would say that we must, at all costs, tell the truth - whilst Mill would insist that we should think of the consequences.
The Xmas Files is a philosophical meander through the myths and rituals of Christmas today, asking such important questions as, does Santa exist? What's wrong with Christmas kitsch? Is it all just a commercial racket? What was Augustine's attitude to 'peace on earth'? And what would David Hume have to say about the virgin birth?
For underneath all the festive fun, the way we celebrate Christmas does raise serious questions about the beliefs that sustain us, and the ways in which we still value ritual and tradition as a means of coming together.
..... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Introduction): Christmas is one of the last great traditions that is shared by believers and non-believers alike in the West.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 150): Christmas has an appeal that reaches far beyond the Christian. In an age when religion increasingly divides rather than unites us, perhaps there's a case to be made for thinking of our great winter festival, not as specifically a Christian event, but as one of the last great traditions in which we can all participate, whatever our beliefs.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: A library book, I have no desire to purchase a copy of this.
You'd think looking at the front cover that this was a fun read - alas if only I'd paid more attention to the blurb on the back cover I may have realised that it wasn't going to be quite the light, fun read I was expecting.
Too deep and philosophical for my liking, The Xmas Files poses a series of moral questions including, amongst others, the dilemma of Aunt Gertrude's awful Christmas tie and whether or not we should eat turkey.
Far from my ideal choice of armchair lounging, hot chocolate in hand, festive reading, this was nevertheless a thought provoking read.
And so onto my second offering ...........
THE WINTER SOLSTICE (THE SACRED TRADITIONS OF CHRISTMAS) by JOHN MATTHEWS.
Revive old traditions and discover new ones through the lively descriptions of the revels of Old Europe and the solstice ceremonies of traditional peoples of many lands.
....... Outer Back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Introduction): Welcome everything! Welcome all alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your place around the Christmas fire, where what is sits open hearted! - Charles Dickens, 1851.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 163): Jolly Old Hawk, a traditional song, listing the animals associated with the season.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: A library book, I'd love a copy of this.
In stark contrast to The Xmas Files, I loved this book - in fact if I could buy each and everyone of you a copy I would such is the amazing topics covered and the glorious illustrations by Caitlin Matthews.
Simply divine, encompassing the Christian as well as the older forms of worship of the winter festival, this book includes the beliefs and practises of lots of different peoples and cultures, includes examples of song and verse from around the world and, for those of you with an artistic streak, gives lots of practical things to do - the making of various different shrines, the making of a 'boar's head' etc. I could go on but instead will simply recommend this as a wonderfully alternative Christmas read.
The 97th and 98th book read in my 100+ Reading Challenge And the 1st and 2nd in the Christmas Spirit Challenge.