The Christmas season is, as the song goes, “the most wonderful time of the year.” Seasonal cheer permeates our food, our clothes, our homes, and our hearts. All these memorable effects, especially the awkward and funny aspects, are captured and celebrated in the new book, The Christmas Virtues, edited by The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan V. Last.
Described as “part survival guide, part spiritual reflection, part anthropological study of the traditions of Yuletide,” this book is an emotional journey which will bring you to tears at some points and cause outbursts of laughter at others. It is a celebration of everything there is to love and loath about the holiday season in modern America.
While most seasonal reflections try not to focus on the trappings, Last describes this project saying, “this isn’t a book about ontology or philosophy or theology. It’s about how we live Christmas. So actually, it is about trees and presents and Christmas morning – and a whole lot else.”
Twenty recognizable conservative writers contribute to this project, many of whom joined Last in his earlier collections, The Seven Deadly Virtues and The Dadly Virtues. While Christmas cheer does not cut along political lines, these influential conservatives seem to be uniquely qualified for the job. After all, conservatism is inherently about remembering how we got to the present, about embracing tradition, and about passing our values and virtues onto the next generation.
Some highlights from these great writers include:
1) P.J. O’Rourke providing a fervent defense of the commercialization of Christmas
2) Jewish writers, including Jonah Goldberg, Larry Miller, and Joseph Epstein, sharing what they view as the most valuable aspects of the Christmas season and what is worth defending in the War on Christmas.
3) Stephen Hayes discovering cassette recordings of a Christmas morning from his childhood.
4) David “Iowahawk” Burge sharing a document dump from the North Pole, which gives some exclusive insights into the world’s largest toy-distribution operation.
5) Kirsten Powers on how different Christmas is with Jesus.
Throughout the book, there is a flurry of memories involving Red Rider BB guns, the smell of cinnamon on Christmas morning, and the all-too-relatable stories of eccentric relatives. If you aren’t already listening to Christmas music, this book will get many, many carols and classics stuck in your head — particularly after reading Andrew Ferguson’s chapter about who is taking Christ out of Christmas songs.
Summing up the book, Last muses that “God gives us Christmas, but it’s our families that create the traditions we hold in our hearts.”
This book is sure to be loved by anyone who embodies the season of Christmas – you undoubtedly know a few of these people. These friends and family members can be hard to gift-shop for, but consider this book your solution. Not only will you be giving them a humorous, enjoyable read, but you will be giving them memories and stories to keep them warm for many Christmas seasons to come.
Original CBC review by Jacqueline Isaacs.