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Christmas and New Year's Celebrations

Like a river winding its way to the sea fed by countless tributaries, the festival we call Christmas has rolled down to us over the course of two millennia. It has taken many twists and turns on its journey across the rugged landscape of the ages, thereby gaining and losing a range of meanings, legends, customs, and symbols. It has been fed along the way by such sources as the Bible, pre-Christian calendar customs, Christian lore and tradition, and a wide range of folk practices, beliefs, and symbols. The interventions and innovations of many individuals —be they saints, kings, queens, musicians, writers, business men and women, manufacturers, scholars, clergy, or politicians — have also swelled the flow. Today, standing at the mouth of the river, the yearly phenomena we call Christmas roars past us each December, a joyous tumult composed of all these influences.
In western cultures the celebrations surrounding Christmas and New Year’s have unified into a single holiday season. Hence, the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Christmas has expanded its coverage of New Year’s Eve and Day. For this reason, the second edition has been retitled Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations.
The Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations addresses this sprawling holiday, tracing its history back to ancient times and describing its observance in countries spanning six continents. The encyclopedia format allows the user to locate sought-for information quickly, or to browse. The diverse range of material presented offers the reader the opportunity to gain a new appreciation of the breadth and depth of this ancient, international festival.

The Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations is intended for general audiences, including students and teachers, as well as interested adults. Those researching various aspects of the history and celebration of Christmas will find pertinent information, and general readers will find engaging historical narratives, descriptions, tales, and facts.

Scope and Organization
The Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations contains 247 entries on all facets of Christmas arranged in alphabetical order. Topics covered include folk customs and beliefs, religious practices, symbols, legends, mythological and historical figures, foods, beverages, and major artistic and popular works associated with the celebration of Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day. Entries also provide information on related days and celebrations, such as the Annunciation, Candlemas, and Epiphany. Because many of the entries include material on a range of subjects, the reader is strongly urged to consult the index in order to locate all available information on any given topic.
The Encyclopedia traces the history of Christmas and New Year’s Day from antiquity to the twentieth century. It contains a number of essays on ancient celebrations which bequeathed some of their customs to this holiday season, such as the Roman festivals Kalends and Saturnalia. It also traces the origins and development of Christmas as a Christian holiday. To this end it includes essays exploring the controversy over the date of Jesus’ birth, explaining the selection of December 25 as the date of the new festival, and describing the development of the many Christian holidays and celebrations related to the Nativity.
Many essays touch on the blossoming of Christmas customs, leg-ends, symbols, and foods in medieval and Renaissance Europe, as well as the expansion of the Christmas season that took place during that era. Further essays outline the decline of Christmas following the Protestant Reformation, as well as examine its resurgence in the Victorian era. The Encyclopedia also covers the continuing evolution of the holiday in the twentieth century, noting the development of new symbols and customs, such as those represented by the Christmas seal and the Christmas club, as well as the growing popularity of Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, the Christmas gift, and other modern Christmas customs.
The book is international in scope, offering 39 entries dealing wholly or mostly with the Christmas season in other countries. These essays cover Christmas celebrations in European, Asian, Middle Eastern, African, and Latin American countries. Additional information about foreign Christmas customs appears throughout the volume. For example, there is no entry on Jamaica or the Bahamas, but the “Jonkon-nu” entry describes an important Jamaican and Bahamian Christmas custom. Therefore, readers are encouraged to use the index to locate all pertinent information on a geographic location, ethnic group, or any other subject.

Christmas and New Year's Celebrations
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