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Flanders Feasting

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Belgian chefs prepare feasts for Belgian Restaurant Week

In celebration of Belgium’s 182nd year of independence, Washington, DC hosts Belgian Restaurant Week, a food festival that runs July 12-21 and features 10 of the area’s top Belgian restaurants.

A bevy of Belgian bistros, including Belga Café, Brabo, Brasserie Beck, Et Voila!, Granville Moore’s, Locolat, Le Pain Quotidien, Marcel’s, Marvin, and Mussel Bar, are offering special food and drink deals and activities.

"The Belgian Restaurant Week in Washington, DC is a showcase of the best Belgium has to offer in the culinary field,” said Belgian Ambassador Jan Matthysen.

The activities include a waffle brunch on July 15, a celebration of the Trappist beer Chimay’s 150th anniversary on July 18, and a mussel throw down among top Washington, DC chefs on July 21. Other events include beer sampling nearly every day, Belgian music, and prize giveaway including roundtrip airfare and a three-night stay in Brussels.


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Review: Feast for a King

Do you have that Weihnachtsstimmung—that Christmas feeling? My sister does: She’s been making an old family cookie recipe. Kipferls from Austria became kiffles in Bethlehem, Pa., where our Great-Aunt Clara inventively replaced the tangy filling of apricot preserves with an American pantry substitute: pineapple. Clara’s kiffles are the essence of Christmas: traditional and new, peculiar and delicious.

Judith Flanders, a marvelous explicator of 19th-century culture high and low, has written a plum-puddingy history of Christmas, an “amalgam of traditions drawn primarily from the Anglo-American world and the German-speaking lands.” As with a plum pudding, you can pick out bits you already know you like—the book’s margins are helpfully decorated with cute icons for key themes, including “greenery,” “food and feasting” and “carnival and riot”—but to get the full flavor you should consume the whole slice.

Ms. Flanders briefly considers the Christ in Christmas, but religion turns out to be “ultimately, and surprisingly, a small element” in her story. The holiday’s symbolism was often drawn on by kings—both Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were crowned on Christmas Day. But the solemn religious festival always coexisted with more earthly pleasures.

The particulars have changed. Wassail made way for cookies gift-giving used to go from low to high, as underlings sought to ingratiate themselves. But the underlying dynamics stayed much the same. Medieval Christmas feasts might conjure scenes of King Arthur, but they were more like “a CEO dancing with a warehouseman at an office party,” Ms. Flanders writes.

Christmas: A Biography

Thomas Dunne, 246 pages, $24.99

Much Christmas lore, says Ms. Flanders, isn’t true. It is, however, with no spirit of bah-humbuggery that she debunks or enlarges myths about Christmas trees (introduced into English-speaking lands by Prince Albert, Hessians at Trenton, or none of the above?) or indeed Christmas itself (Is it really a pagan holiday—from Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, or Woden?).

Ms. Flanders’s spirits are high as she examines “special Christmas observances, things that people did at that time of year and no other.” Her book takes in medieval boy bishops and Lords of Misrule, naughty Swiss children who “received horse manure and rotten vines” as presents, the invention of wrapping paper (and Scotch tape), and the evolution of department-store window displays.

Her pictures really snap into focus, however, when the historian reaches her home territory, the 19th century. The fictional Christmases of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens delighted contemporaries who, with wishful thinking, read them as truth. Dickens “knew that what we want Christmas to be is not what it really is,” Ms. Flanders writes, but drew on the sentiments of the season to force us to look at uncomfortable truths. In “A Christmas Carol” (1843), he places the Ghost of Christmas Present upon a throne of mouth-watering luxuries, but under the rich green robes Scrooge sees two menacing children, “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”: Ignorance and Want. Ms. Flanders, too, makes sure we get a sense of what underlay the cheerful romps of Victorian Christmas: She juxtaposes Jane Carlyle, dancing and drinking champagne with Dickens and Thackeray, with the diarist Hannah Cullwick, a servant who spent the holiday fetching, cleaning, cooking and serving roast fowl and plum pudding for 40 people.

The author, raised in Montreal, includes some Canadian Catholic traditions, from midnight Mass to the first carol in an indigenous language, the Huron “Jesous Ahatonhia” from 1642. But she overlooks Hispanic celebrations like Las Posadas (nativity processions coinciding with Aztec solstice festivals), still celebrated from New Mexico and Texas to Michigan and Oregon. Ms. Flanders does discuss non-Christian festivals that have grown in prominence as a response to Christmas, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Has there ever been a Golden Age when there was a Christian message of generous love in every heart, “where,” wrote Irving Berlin (a Jewish immigrant from Russia), “the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”? “Ultimately,” Ms. Flanders concludes, “Christmas is not what is, or even has been, but what we hope for.” The best Christmases blend the ingredients of our imaginations—sweet fruits, indeed—steeped with longing for the past we dream of.

&mdashMs. Mullen writes for the Hudson Review and Barnes & Noble Review.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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