This is the "Christmas" page of the "Seasonal Resources: The Church Year" guide.
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Seasonal Resources: The Church Year   Tags: christmas, church_year, easter, halloween, liturgical_year, seasonal, thanksgiving, worship  

Guides to Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and other special occasions in the Church Year.
Last Updated: Feb 19, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Christmas Print Page

About Christmas

Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus. In Western churches, it is always celebrated on December 25, and the Christmas season always continues for twelve days (as in the popular song) until the Day of Epiphany (January 6). There will be one or two Sundays in the Christmas season. The date reflects an observance of the churches of Rome in the fourth century, and while often thought to correspond to a pagan Roman feast, it may have been due to an early calculation of the date of Jesus’ crucifixion as March 25, considered to be the same as the date of his conception (count back nine months). No one knows for sure, but the date stuck. Christmas season’s color is white.

In response to annual requests for information about the origin and celebration of Christmas, we've compiled this resource page. The works cited range from scholarly folklore studies to popular commentaries on modern observances. Feel free to add your own links!

Links to book titles on this page will take you to the record in Emory's DiscoverE library catalog search engine (or if Emory does not own the book, to WorldCat).  Links to articles take you to the full text access page, if available (usually only to Emory affiliates).


Christmas Books

For a good brief introduction to Christmas traditions, see John F. Baldovin, "Christmas," in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Lindsay Jones, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005), 3:1756-1757. (REFERENCE BL31 .E46 2005). Available online to Emory affiliates.

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The Christmas Encyclopedia - William D. Crump
Publication Date: 2013
The third edition is online for Emory students, faculty, and staff. Subjects include carols and songs, Christmas episodes of TV series, literary figures, and popular symbols, as well as the origins of Christmas traditions.

2nd edition (2006) available in THEOLOGY REFERENCE: GT4985 .C74 2006

Encylopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations - Tanya Gulevich
Call Number: GT4985 .G79 2003
240 alphabetically arranged entries covering Christmas, New Year's, and related days of observance, including folk and religious customs, history, legends, and symbols from around the world; supplemented by a bibliography and lists of Christmas Web sites and associations.

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Christmas: Festival of Incarnation - Donald Heinz
Call Number: THEO STACKS: BV45 .H44 2010
ISBN: 9780800697334
Publication Date: 2010-06-01
A cultural history of Christmas written by a professor of religious studies, focusing on the material practices associated with Christmas observance throughout centuries in the Western Christian Church.

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Christmas in America: A History - Penne L. Restad
Call Number: GT4986 .A1 R47 1995
The evolution of Christmas in America since colonial times, and how it has reflected the hopes and fears of the wider American society.

1001 Christmas Facts and Fancies - Alfred Carl Hottes
Call Number: GT4985 .H799
1948 ed. (first published in 1937) of comprehensive work covering history of Christmas greenery, carols, foods, and traditions from around the world.

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The Battle for Christmas - Stephen Nissenbaum
Call Number: General Libraries STACKS GT4986 .A1 N57 1996
Scholarly analysis of modern celebration of Christmas argues that the present genteel holiday resulted from the attempt to tame a raucous 19th-century celebration that reflected social chaos in a developing consumer culture.

Martin Luther's Christmas Book - ed. Roland H. Bainton
Call Number: BV4257 .L88 1997
Unmatched compilation of Luther's Christmas sermons and songs, illustrated by contemporaries such as Albrecht Durer.

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Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for Advent and the Christmas Season - Irene Edmonds (Translator); Wim Verbaal (Introduction by); Wendy Beckett (Translator); Conrad Greenia (Translator); John Leinenweber (Editor)
Call Number: THEO STACKS: BV4254.5 .B4813 2007
ISBN: 9780879074517
Publication Date: 2007-12-01
29 sermons from Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) covering the liturgical period beginning with Advent and extending to the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Bernard makes scriptural allusions throughout the sermons, and this collection treats the significance of conversion for spiritual rebirth. A lengthy introduction provides background on Bernard's sermon writings and strategies of organization.

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Christmas Praise - Waldo Beach (Editor)
Call Number: BV40 .C48 1991
ISBN: 066421939X
Publication Date: 1991-08-01

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Proclaiming the Christmas Gospel - John D. Witvliet (Editor); David Vroege (Editor)
Call Number: THEO STACKS: BV4257 .P76 2004
ISBN: 0801064058
Publication Date: 2004-10-01
Includes a sample of Advent and Christmas sermons from the 4th-16th centuries, with selections by Jerome, Augustine of Hippo, Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Bede, Guerric of Igny, John Wyclif, Thomas a Kempis, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.


Suggested Search Terms

Some search times that will bring results for Advent and Christmas study are:


Church year

Fast and feasts

Christmas (may subdivide geographically; e.g., "Christmas Ireland")

Christmas music (narrower term: "Carols")

Christmas plays

Christmas service

Christmas sermons

Christmas stories


Books on Simplifying Christmas Observances

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Christmas Is Not Your Birthday - Michael Slaughter
ISBN: 1426727356
Publication Date: 2011-08-01
Reflections from a United Methodist pastor on focusing on the missional meaning of Christmas rather than the consumer observance.

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Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas - Bill McKibben
Call Number: Check your local public library
ISBN: 068485595X
Publication Date: 1998-12-02
From environmental activist and United Methodist Bill McKibben: a call for scaling back the consumer aspect of the holiday season to focus on relationships and experiences.

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Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season - Jo Robinson; Jean C. Staeheli
Call Number: Check your local public library, purchase a copy, or request via Interlibrary Loan
ISBN: 0688109616
Publication Date: 1991-10-28
A guide to thinking through both practical and spiritual elements of planning a simpler Christmas season and enjoying it more.

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