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The Origins of Christmas

Item Number: 19455

Catalog Code: 9780814629840

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Origins of Christmas

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When was Christmas first celebrated? How did December 25 become the official date for Christmas? How did the Bible's "magi from the East" become three kings named Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar who rode camels from three different continents to worship the newborn Christ? Why did medieval and Renaissance artists often portray Joseph as an old man? When did the first Christmas music appear? And who was the real St. Nicholas, and how did he become one of the most famous of all Christian saints?

These and many other questions are answered in The Origins of Christmas. The story of the origins of Christmas is not well known, but it is a fascinating tale. It begins when Christmas did not exist, and finishes when Christmas had become an integral part of Christian life and Western culture.

The Origins of Christmas covers a variety of topics in a concise and accessible style and is suitable for group discussions.

Chapters are "The Birth of Jesus," "Creating the Christmas Story," "Creating Christmas Day and the Christmas Season," "Jesus, Mary, the Magi, and an Obscure Asian Bishop," and "The Popular Acceptance of Christmas."

Joseph F. Kelly, Ph.D., who chairs the religious studies department at John Carroll University, is also active in the religious education apostolate of the Diocese of Cleveland. The World of the Early Christians (1997), The Problem of Evil in the Western Tradition (2002), and Responding to Evil (2003), published by Liturgical Press, are among his nine previous books.

"What a wonderful little book this is—full of historical and scriptural information! It is readable and accessible to all. But best of all—what a splendid antidote to the commercialism of the Christmas season to be reminded of the true meaning of this happy, holy day."
- Catholic Library World
"One of the many pleasures this book has to offer is the chance to recognize familiar faces--whether those of Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar or those of the ox and the ass--and to learn more about where they come from and why they are now so much a part of our understanding of Christmas. It shows the power of a good story, a story that Kelly calls 'a delight to research and tell.' That delight, so evident throughout this book, makes it a pleasure to read."
- Catholic Studies
"Any historian of the origins of Christmas confronts bewilderingly complex and uncertain evidence, and the need to be in command of a good many disciplines. The state and breadth of the evidence, moreover, would seem to make it impossible to convey a sense of the holiday's beginnings without misleading oversimplification. In The Origins of Christmas, however, Joseph F. Kelly does an outstanding job of making difficult material accessible to a non-academic audience, and of giving a perfectly clear account of what in less certain hands would surely be murky. Kelly's selection of passages to illustrate and explain the holiday's development is exemplary, and even the reader with no background in the Bible, early Christianity, or the ancient and medieval worlds, will know exactly what is going on and why at each point in his book. Most readers' questions about the origins of the holiday, such as why we think of three kings when the biblical Nativity accounts mention neither kings nor a number, will be answered, and answered as accurately as current knowledge will allow. This is a thoroughly commendable book, an engrossing read, and certain to enrich anyone's understanding and appreciation of Christmas."
- Prof. Joseph Walsh, Department of Classics, Loyola University, Maryland


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8"  (20.3 cm) x 5 1/2"  (13.9 cm) x 0 1/2"  (1.27 cm)
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