The Origins of Christmas  -     By: Joseph F. Kelly
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The Origins of Christmas

Liturgical Press / 2004 / Paperback

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When was Christmas first celebrated? How was the date December 25 decided upon? How did "magi from the East" turn into three kings riding camels? Who was the real St. Nicholas? "Packs a lot of interesting information into a small book. A pleasure to read,"---Catholic Books Review. 145 pages, softcover. Liturgical Press.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 160
Vendor: Liturgical Press
Publication Date: 2004
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.38 (inches)
ISBN: 0814629849
ISBN-13: 9780814629840
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

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 al 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, PhD, 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.

Author Bio

Joseph F. Kelly, PhD, chair of the department of theology and religious studies at John Carroll University, is active in adult religious education in the Greater Cleveland area. The World of the Early Christians (1997), The Problem of Evil in the Western Tradition (2002), and History and Heresy (2012) are among his nine previous books published by Liturgical Press.

Editorial Reviews

This brief, but well researched book is recommended not only for academic readers, but also appeals to public interest. Kelly succeeds in emphasizing the secular element of Christmas which flourishes alongside the religious element. Early Christians brought pagan elements into the celebration of their Christmas celebrations, thereby adding value to the Christmas season.
Theological Studies

This book would be an excellent 'all-household' read for the twelve days.
Alan Hommerding

This volume . . . serves well to dispel myths, explain legends, and name key figures for any reader interested in the subject.
Themelios

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
The diverse origins of Christmas will come as a fascinating surprise to most who know only the Sunday School version of the Christmas story from their childhoods. The Origins of Christmas is very highly recommended and informative reading.
Midwest Book Review

With its colorful binding, interesting illustrations, wide coverage of topics, and modest cost, the book is a valuable source of information and makes a fine Advent-Christmas gift.
Prairie Messenger

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  1. Christopher
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    November 17, 2010
    Christopher
    Quality: 5
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    If you're expecting a truly academic book, this isn't for you. However, this book is written in an easy and understandable way. When the author gets to a point that most Christians wouldn't know, for example the New Testament Apocrypha, he stops and explains. Kelly does a great job on tracing back how Christmas, Christmas traditions, and customs were formed. If you'd like a source, besides the internet, on how Christmas originated, I recommend this book.

    This book includes several pictures, a bibliography, and index.
  2. P Stoika
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    November 18, 2009
    P Stoika
    Very interesting history of Christmas in the early Church, through the years B.C. through about the 6th century. The author does a nice job of identifying the sources for our contemporary "version" of the nativity story -- including, for example, looking to apocryphal literature, which is likely a source for some of those details. The author clearly explains that the apocryphal writings aren't part of the canon, but they obviously existed and influenced traditions. Considering that this is supposed to be a history, I think it's perfectly appropriate to identify the likely sources of modern traditions -- even if the sources aren't part of the canon.This is a much more in-depth and apparently carefully researched text than any others I have found. I appreciate that it draws from scripture but also goes beyond scripture -- because, clearly, our modern traditions draw on more than scripture too (since, for example, scripture says NOTHING about the feast of the Nativity ... and yet we celebrate it every year). An educational and illuminating read! Exactly what I was looking for.
  3. Steve Hill
    1 Stars Out Of 5
    December 16, 2008
    Steve Hill
    The author approached the biblical text from a theologically liberal perspective. For instance the author believes that Matthew and Luke write their accounts of the Christmas story to refute Mark's account. Much of the biblical information is not from the pen of the apostles but later Christians who are responding to their context. Thus the book gives some interesting history but lacks in any biblical foundation.
  4. Jennifer Sandberg
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    September 18, 2008
    Jennifer Sandberg
    It is a great book on getting the background on when and how Christmas came about. I thought that it provided much good information. One thing I really liked was how it went into quite a bit of depth on the pre-Christian holidays that Christmas is based on.
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