I re-read this book tonight, 'Inventing Christmas' by Jock Elliott. A very good friend Padraig gave it to me a few years back as a Christmas present while we were in college together. The book uncovers the origins of Christmas as a holiday and outlines the various traditions we love and celebrate. Traditions such as the Christmas Tree, Christmas Carols, Christmas Cards, Santa Claus Gift-Giving etc It is a hugely interesting and insightful read. Jock Elliott did a superlative job weaving back and forth through history and every piece featured in the book is from his own personal collection.
After reading it tonight I had high hopes of writing Mr Elliott a letter, to compliment the book, but unfortunately discovered he passed away in 2005.
It's out of print and not any easy book to find, but if you ever spot it while rummaging through your local second hand book shop, or will perusing the library shelves make sure to check it out!