30 Nov 2011


THE XMAS FILES (A PHILOSOPHY OF CHRISTMAS) by STEPHEN LAW - With contributions from several others.

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 gives new meaning not just to Christmas, but to the whole winter season. Folklore expert John Matthews traces the history behind many of the sacred traditions of the holiday season and provides refreshing and practical suggestions for celebrating the Winter Solstice as a joyous, life-affirming, spiritual festival.

Delight in the surprising multicultural origins of Santa Claus, the Yule Log, caroling, mistletoe, and the Christmas evergreen.

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.


A said...

Great reviews as usual.

I like Christmas though I am not Christian and for that matter - non believer.

PS:-Did you post Monday Media this time?

Vivienne said...

The Winter Solstice would definitely be on my wish list. I really like the sound of that book.

The Xmas Files is very deceiving by the cover.

anilkurup said...

Yes that is true, " Winter Solstice" has a ring of mystery around it.

A festivity that is sans religion and other man made boundaries is always a great experience. Merry Xmas!

GMR said...

Wow, you're right. The cover says something TOTALLY different than the actual book. Misrepresentation anyone? However, book 2 cover....gotta say, kinda creeps me out. Glad the content is more suitable though. Just goes to prove that old adage....you can't judge a book by it's cover.

Anonymous said...

Love Christmas ! Always make a fruit cake and get gifts for my kids !

for some reason can't access my blog so commenting as anonymous.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Winter Solstice appeals to me. Thanks for the rec!

Trac~ said...

Hey girl - thanks for the latest book updates. Sorry the other one was such a bore. I will check out the 2nd book you mentioned. Hope all is well your way! Have a great day! :)

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

i'd definitely add the winter solstice to my wish list.

another brilliant review!

big hugs

Kelly said...

This sounds like a wonderful, informational book. Good review!

Kelly said...

Guess I should clarify that I'm referring to the latter book. Good review of both, though, since I would probably agree with you that the first is a little "dry".

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

With that first cover I would have thought something light too. However, it looks like a book I might like. I have members of my family that aren't Christian and still celebrate with everyone else. :) So, I may like something within the philosophy the book.

Suko said...

The Winter Solstice does sound like a wonderful book! As always, thank you for your well-written and honest reviews. You are quite close to completing the 100+ reading challenge!

On a different note, I've set up a Page for The Jodi Picoult Project, with a Mister Linky for reviews. Please enter the URL of your Jodi Picoult post when you have a free moment. I'd like to have a record of all posts. Thanks very much, Petty!

Arti said...

Loved the Winter Solstice, the cover page is also very different.
Christmas is such a fun festival, I remember as kids we used to have a party atmosphere at our school...
Have a nice day PW:)

themethatisme said...

I don't think the cover of the Xmas files is misleading...it's there in the words 'the philosophy of christmas' and this is what the book relates. I'm not quite finished it yet, but I think it tad unfair to criticise something for not being what you thought it 'should' be. It is a very good boook for introducing readers to the practice of philosophy using a popular idiom that people can relate to.

Monalisa said...

THe second one sounded real good. And hey, you're on your 98th book!!

Jenners said...

I would definitely expect the first one to be light-hearted romp!

naida said...

I wouldnt ever think the Xmas Files would be so philosophical. The cover tricks.
I like the sound of The Winter Solstice.
Nice reviews for the challenge :)

carol said...

The Winter Solstice sounds like a book I should pick up. Thanks for the reviews.