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Behind every Christmas tradition is a story—usually, a forgotten one. Each year, as we string up lights, build a gingerbread house, and get ready for a visit from St. Nicholas, we’re continuing generations-old narratives, while being largely unaware of their starting chapters. But knowing how these traditions began adds a new level of depth to our Christmas spirit, as well as an arsenal of anecdotes to share at Christmas parties. Christmas Past: The Fascinating Stories Behind Our Favorite Holiday’s Traditions reveals the surprising, quirky, mysterious, and sometimes horrifying stories behind the most wonderful time of the year. With twenty-six short chapters, Christmas Past is a festive, digestible Advent calendar of a book. Covering traditions ancient and modern, it’s filled with stories of happy accidents, cultural histories, criminal capers (including tomb raiders and con artists), and hidden connections between Christmas and broader social, economic, and technological influences. How did the invention of plate glass forever change the Christmas season? What common Christmas item helped introduce fine art to the masses? Why do Americans typically spike their eggnog with rum rather than the traditional brandy? And speaking of booze, does using the phrase “Merry Christmas” mark you as a drunken reveler? Christmas Pastanswers all those questions and many more.