Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: Christmas: Festival of Incarnation

Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming! Yep, I enjoy Christmas carols, trimming the tree, shopping for presents (not wrapping them though!), and everything else that comes with the Christmas season. There is nothing like taking a drive to a local Christmas tree farm and cutting down your own Frazier Fir for the house. Thanks to the work of Prof. Donald Heinz we have a thorough introduction to the "reason for the season" of Christmas: the incarnation of the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Christmas: Festival of Incarnation (Fortress, 2010) is a lovely book, the cover is very attractive as well, an angel fresco from Italy invites the reader to ponder and peruse Heinz's commentary on the problems, misunderstandings, and issues involving the Christmas season. Fortress Press has done a great job with this book and I hope readers will agree, this book is a must read during the holiday season.

Heinz, a professor of religious studies at California State at Chico. He takes the reader through several layers of the holiday season including the birth and infancy narratives in Luke 2 and Matthew 1-2, the history and development of the Christmas holiday, the cultural and societal issues regarding the holiday such as the desacrilization and resacrilization of Christmas as well as some interesting tidbits and facts surrounding Christmas such as the term "wassailing" comes from the German words which mean "sing for food/drink" or that peacocks were a delicacy during the Christmas dinner feast in some aristocratic circles.

Christmas: Festival of Incarnation is a comprehensive look at Christmas. These eleven chapters are packed with information about how Christmas was celebrated in 19th century England as well as in modern America. Heinz considers the music, art, and stories about Christmas as well. I didn't know for example that Christmas was out-lawed in Puritan New England for several years or that the major push for Christmas shopping and the secular reduction of Christmas started just after WWII.

If you want to give someone a book this Christmas, a book that deals with the "reason for the season" then give them Christmas: Festival of Incarnation.