"Nearly everything you know about Christmas is wrong. Do you think the proclaimed war on Christmas is a recent occurrence? Do you think Santa is Dutch, or that his red suit was brought to you courtesy of Coca-Cola? Or are you merely dreaming of a Christmas like the one you used to know? You aren't alone: thirty years after the first recorded Christmas, a fourth-century archbishop was already complaining that his flock was spending the day dancing and feasting, not in religious observance. By 1616, the playwright Ben Jonson was nostalgically reminiscing about the vastly better Christmases in the old days. Some traditions of Christmas are relatively new--who would have thought gift-wrap was a novelty of the twentieth century? That the first holiday parade was neither at Macy's, nor even in the United States? Other elements, however, have been around for a surprisingly long time. The first known gag holiday giftbook, The Boghouse Miscellany, was advertised in the 1760s, while in 1805, the leaders of the Lewis and Clark expedition exchanged--what else?--presents of underwear and socks. Christmas is different things to different people: a religious festival for some, a family celebration for others, or perhaps simply a time of seasonal eating and drinking. In Christmas: A Biography, acclaimed historian Judith Flanders casts a sharp eye over the myths, legends, and history that make up the holiday to show us the season as it really is, but rarely how it is understood."--Dust jacket flap. Presents a tour of Christmas holiday traditions from the original festival through today, touching on subjects ranging from gift wrap and the holiday parade to the first gag holiday gift book and the first official appearance of Santa Claus.