Christmas is a funny old time of year, where we do some odd things and no one really knows why. Never fear, Mark Forsyth is here to explain some of our festive traditions, where they came from and why Christmas carols rarely make sense.

If you love etymology (that’s the origins of words) then you really must read Mark’s books. If not, well, A Christmas Cornucopia will still arm you with plenty of festive facts to arm yourself with for even the most challenging Christmas gathering. Does everyone believe modern Santa was created by Coca-Cola? Well I’ll admit I thought that too, but you can whip this book out and explain why Santa is a result of anti-British sentiment in America despite the Puritans over there repeatedly trying to ban Christmas.

You’ll also find out why your Christmas tree should have a snake in it (I’m working on that for next year), how the Twelve Days of Christmas is inspired by a recipe and that robins are only bold birds in Britain. I had forever thought that Christmas Day was put where it was because of the winter solstice and pagan celebrations, but turns out some madman known as The Computist spent a very long time working it out with maths. He even wrote a very boring and hard to follow book about it.

Picture a man sitting beside a dead tree. He is indoors and wearing a crown. From the ceiling hangs a parasitical shrub which legitimates sexual assault. He is singing to himself about a tenth-century Mittel-European murder victim using a sixteenth-century Finnish melody. Earlier, he told his children that the house had been broken into during the night by an obese Turkish man. This was a lie, but he wanted to make his children happy.

Even the index entries are a tad amusing. Jealousy towards British balls, Crackers – what the Computist was and in-laws – strangulation of. If you’re looking for a festive read but don’t really want anything too schmaltzy, this is the book for you.

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Book Source: Purchased