Here's a library book I found that I think many of you would enjoy:
The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year by Linda Raedisch. Book summary:
’Tis the Season for Witches, Elves, and a Legion of Ghosts
Not so very long ago, Yuletide was as much a chilling season of ghosts and witches as it was a festival of goodwill. In The Old Magic of Christmas, you’ll rub elbows with veiled spirits, learn the true perils of elves, and discover a bestiary of enchanted creatures. Rife with the more frightful characters from folklore and the season’s most petulant ghosts, this book takes you on a spooky sleigh ride from the silvered firs of a winter forest to the mirrored halls of the Snow Queen. Along the way, you’ll discover how to bring the festivities into your home with cookie recipes and craft instructions, as well as tips for delving more deeply into your relationship with the unseen.
Praise:“Steeped in history and adorned with a bit of enchantment, The Old Magic of Christmas is the perfect book to read by a winter’s fire with a mug of mulled cider in hand.” —Deborah Blake, author of The Witch’s Broom
“ . . . a fascinating journey into the stories behind the tinsel and bows.”—Doreen Shababy, author of The Wild & Weedy Apothecary
“ . . . an intriguing little tome that explores the darker side of the Yuletide holiday.”—Ellen Dugan, author of The Enchanted Cat
The book is a great way to enjoy the season we're in and learn about some of the older folk beliefs and traditions associated with the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and New Year's. At some points the book can seem a little disjointed, but it really is a difficult thing to summarize all European folk traditions from the winter season. Most tales and legends vary slightly from place to place, and the book gives an overview rather than containing full stories. Still, there are a lot of interesting tidbits, and Raedisch will sometimes point out connections between the Christmas traditions and other famous fairy tales or fantasy literature.
I also appreciated what Raedisch pointed out in the introduction-the book, despite delving into the darker side of Christmas, is not meant to be Christmas horror, or to present all winter traditions as dark/violent. I find it fascinating to see how cultures adapt to the darkness and cold. It's natural that some beliefs would reflect the fears and terror that long dark nights would bring, especially before electricity. But a lot of the traditions are about defying the darkness-celebrations of light and goodwill almost serve to defy the gloom.