10 January 2024

Review: The Secret History of Christmas by Bill Bryson

The Secret History of Christmas by Bill Bryson audiobook cover

I didn't expect to close out my year of reading in 2023 with a book by Bill Bryson or a book about Christmas, yet both of these coalesced when I came across the irresistibly titled The Secret History of Christmas by Bill Bryson last month.

Bill Bryson always manages to entertain me with curious facts from history and has a warm and merry narrating voice making this the perfect non fiction book for the month of December.

This Audible freebie was delightful and I enjoyed following Bryson through the history of Christmas and various yuletide traditions in this heartwarming yet brief spotlight on a very jolly time of year.

When it comes to gift giving, Bryson points out that some presents cost more to the giver than they are worth to the receiver, however he balances this by making the following counterpoint:
"The very act of giving a gift automatically adds value to the gift, because it expresses qualities of affection and friendship that cannot be priced. There's also value to the giver because it makes them feel loved or appreciated..." Chapter 6 - Let's Shop!
Yes, this is why I love gift giving so much! The effort and thought behind a gift means so much more than buying the item yourself. It adds sentiment and meaning to the recipient and serves as a reminder whenever you see/use/wear that item. The author goes on to mention that gifts include 'sentiment and good will and lots of other qualities that cannot be measured economically.' I couldn't agree more.

Along the way, Bryson bursts some festive myths and even goes as far as introducing the reader to a website dutifully listing the ever increasing number of Black Friday fatalities around the world. On a more positive and intriguing note, Bryson shares another surprising quirk of Christmas:
"One of the most endearing aspects of Christmas is how it has spread to other lands, often with a novel twist. In Japan for instance, it is now a fixed tradition among millions of people to have a meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken at Christmas time." Chapter 6 - Let's Shop!
Don't believe me? Have a listen to this festive gem for yourself.

You can also check out my review of At Home - A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
or The Body - A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson.

My Rating:

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