Like everything, it seems, Christmas has gotten to be somewhat controversial. And then there always appear to be people around telling us we’re doing it wrong: that we don’t know the true meaning or that the essence has been lost in a lot of shopping and hoopla or that we didn’t get it right in the first place. If any of this is true, in Christmas: from Solstice to Santa (Orca Origins) then authors Nikki Tate and Dani Tate-Stratton claw Christmas back from the naysayers and remind us about where it came from and what it’s for and, miraculously, they do this while remaining pretty non-denominational and never getting preachy. That all is a tall order, but considering the book is the latest in a series that includes books on Passover, Diwali, Chinese New Year and Ramadan, it simply isn’t too much to ask.

In the first section, “Season of Darkness, Season of Light,” the authors take everything on with a tone that is joyously inclusive. They begin: “A midwinter celebration held in December and January is common in many parts of the world.” And so we begin with the genesis of such celebrations: the short days, the scarce foods, the cold temperatures, and other factors that might contribute to a desire to feast and celebrate.

Ancient Rome. Ancient Greece. Early Christianity. The Puritans, Christmas Carols. And so on. It all marches forward in a logical, straightforward fashion, delivering facts and well-shared tidbits in a way that is absolutely clear and concise. The recipe for Christmas Cherry Cake does not seem incongruous in that section. Rather, it feels entirely appropriate. (All of this information to digest. And then there is cake. What could be more natural?)

Throughout the book, personal stories and experiences are carefully interwoven with simple facts, punctuated at intervals by Christmas appropriate recipes. It’s a terrific blend of things that hit all the right holiday notes. ◊

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