Library 101: Last-Minute Research Help and Christmas History

Posted on: Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Janet Kirby

As you are reading this, regular classes will soon be over and finals will begin.  For those of you who have some last-minute assignments or who have begged extensions on papers, the library is open with librarians standing by to provide research help.  Our electronic databases with full text options may be the best way to find those last minute sources.  We have extended our evening hours until 1AM beginning Tuesday, Dec. 9, to provide some late night study space.  The cafeteria will bring in cookies and caffeine to keep your energy up.

Is December 25 REALLY the birth date of Jesus?  The Gospels of Luke and Matthew, on which most of the Nativity story is based, vary in their accounts, and the Gospels of John and Mark don’t mention His birth at all (Dennis).  The earliest Christians weren’t particularly interested in His birth date because they thought celebrating His birthday was pagan, and besides, they believed the Second Coming was imminent.

The Roman Catholic Church introduced  Christian festivals to edge out the old pagan ones, and in the early 300s CE, the observance of the  Feast of the Nativity was established as December 25.  Since the Feast of the Nativity overlapped the pagan celebrations  of Saturnalia (in honor of the Roman god of agriculture, Saturn), the Norse Yule (honoring Odin),  and Brumalia (the winter solstice), Christmas has, even up to modern times, included both Christian and pagan elements (angels, Christmas boars, candy canes, trees, holly, mistletoe,  and yule logs).  The Puritan-led British Parliament viewed most Christmas traditions as heathen, or worse, too Catholic, and in 1652, prohibited celebrating the holiday.  The more secular version of the holiday was revived in Britain after the Restoration in 1660 (Travers).   How did colonial America and the new republic celebrate this holiday?  Settlers from different countries (and different regions within countries) brought their customs to North America.  The Puritans in New England still held on grimly to their determination to minimize the holiday; the Dutch imported SinterKlaas (Santa Claus); the Germans, the Christmas tree; the Irish, window candles and door wreaths.  During the 19th century, Clement Clarke Moore penned the classic poem “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” (1823) that appeared in the Troy NY Sentinel and Charles Dickens published his tale of despair and redemption, A Christmas Carol, in 1843.  Congress made Christmas a national holiday for all federal workers in 1885.  In the 20th century, this holiday became more secular, commercial, and culturally diverse (Hanukkah and Kwanzaa), although it still retains its Christian roots and overtone of “peace on earth, good-will to man” (Longfellow).  “And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” (Dickens).


Kelly Library owns many classic Christmas movies and programs.  If you have some downtime or need a study break, you might enjoy:


A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, The Nuttiest Nutcracker.

Selected holiday CDs:
The Christmas Song / Nat King Cole, Messiah Highlights / Handel, The Nutcracker / Hoffman, Christmas Day in the Morning / Langstaff, The Joy of Christmas / Bernstein and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, 40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Christmas Collection / Frank Sinatra, Reggae Christmas / various.

Selected books:
 Librarian’s Night Before Christmas / David Davis, Appalachian Christmas ABCs / Francie Hall, What Cats Want for Christmas / Kandy Radzinski, Great American Christmas Almanac / Irena Chalmers, The Christmas Box / Richard Paul Evans, A Family Christmas / Caroline Kennedy, Foxfire Christmas / Eliot Wigginton, Christmas in the Mountains / Hubert J. Davis, Four Centuries of Virginia Christmas / Mary Miley Theobald, A Dog Named Christmas / Greg Kincaid, The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll / Patricia C. McKissac, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia / Sue Corbett.


The staff members of Kelly Library, Information Technology, and Instructional Technology wish you the best of luck on your exams, and a safe and happy Christmas break.


Dennis, Matthew. Encyclopedia of Holidays & Celebrations, 2006.

Thompson, Sue Ellen.  Holiday Symbols, 2000.

Travers, Len.  Encyclopedia of American Holidays & Celebrations, 2006.

Add Pingback