By David Kyle Johnson
Dr. David Kyle Johnson
We all secretly know that Christmas isn't wholly good cheer, but David Kyle Johnson is brave enough to say it. The Myths that Stole Christmas debunks the biggest misconceptions about America's most popular holiday and dares readers to take it back and make the season their own!
In a tone that is both analytical and conversational, Johnson's The Myths that Stole Christmas critiques the frivolous consumerism, religious extremism and the “Santa Claus lie” that characterize Christmas today. But far from being a holiday Grinch, Johnson also presents his readers with a way to reclaim Christmas so that it can again be a time of joy and community, not an expensive and divisive obligation.
Johnson begins his book with a bold assertion: Many of us just don’t like Christmas. Or, we like it, but we wish it weren’t such a burdensome obligation. The Myths That Stole Christmas unpacks the cultural baggage that Christmas has accumulated, from the $12 billion of “deadweight loss” gifts purchased that recipients do not even want to the way in which the Religious Right has hijacked the season to erode the wall of separation between church and state.
Along the way, Johnson’s meticulous research enlightens his readers about the history of Christmas and Santa Claus and their pagan roots, and explains how the Christmas traditions we take for granted, such as decorated trees and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, were invented. Johnson systematically debunks the myth that “The Santa Claus Lie is Harmless,” while suggesting a workable, positive approach for parents in a Santa-obsessed season. But in the book’s final chapter, Johnson addresses the most pervasive Christmas myth of all—that our current Yuletide habits are inevitable and we cannot change them. Instead of letting Christmas control us, it’s high time we took control of Christmas!
Myth #1: Jesus Is the Reason for the Season
Myth #2: There Is a War on Christmas
Myth #3: Our Christmas Traditions Are Old-Fashioned
Myth #4: Christmas Spending Is Good for the Economy
Myth #5: Santa Claus Is Saint Nicholas
Myth #6: The Santa Claus Lie Is Harmless
Myth #7: Christmas Can’t Change
The Myths that Stole Christmas: Seven Misconceptions that Hijacked the Holiday (and How We Can Take It Back) will be available from Humanist Press on November 20, 2015.
David Kyle Johnson is an associate professor of philosophy at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and is also a professor for The Great Courses. His courses include Exploring Metaphysics (2014) and The Big Questions of Philosophy (2016).
In addition to being the author of The Myths that Stole Christmas, he also blogs for Psychology Today, has written and edited extensively for Wiley-Blackwell’s Philosophy and Pop Culture series, and has a popular Authors@Google talk on the movie Inception. He has published work in journals such as Religious Studies, Sophia, Philo, Think, and Science, Religion and Culture regarding metaphysics and philosophy of religion.
Interested in writing a review? Email us for a review copy!
"Before reading this book I would feel tense every year before Christmas would roll around. Johnson, a Christmas expert, dissects all aspects and traditions of the festive season and makes us re-look at how we should experience the ever increasing days that run up to Christmas. Now I think this year will be much more relaxing for me! I'll never be able to look at a tree, a wrapped present, or Santa the same way again. The sooner you read the book, the sooner you can actually enjoy Christmas."
--Barry Jones of the Scottish magic
and comedy team, Barry and Stuart
“The Myths that Stole Christmas may be intent on slaughtering sacred cows, but it does so with such intelligence, and with such apparent appreciation for the enjoyment that celebrations do lead to, that careful readers should not begrudge Johnson his edifying essays. The overarching request of the project is that readers discuss Christmas knowledgeably and without partisan aims; that’s something that all readers, whether they’re religious or not, should find themselves able to sympathize with.”
--Michelle Anne Schingler, Foreword Reviews
"Here’s a required stocking stuffer for the readers on your list: The Myths that Stole Christmas isn’t just a delightful read–it’s a romp through the wilds of Yuletide history and mystery, written in a fun and accessible way, and chock full of mind-blowing bombshells. David Kyle Johnson’s exuberant love for Christmas is matched only by his meticulous research into its origins and surprising evolution. Johnson debunks a sleigh-full of popular myths, clears away long-standing misconceptions, and shines a light on the troubling aspects and controversies surrounding everyone’s most beloved holiday. Best of all, he offers practical, real-world advice to parents, educators and critics on how to take Christmas back from the myths that have hijacked it. Because as Johnson shows, Christmas is for all of us, Christians, Jews and heathens alike."
author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths
"For those whose Christmas holiday has become less than merry, this book may help explain why and what restoratively to do."
---Carl Pickhardt, author of the book
and blog Surviving Your Child's Adolescence
"Wait a minute... You mean Jesus is NOT the Reason for the Christmas Season?!? And Santa Claus is NOT St. Nicholas?!? In this book, Johnson debunks seven myths about one of the most celebrated holidays on the planet, exhorting us to 'own Christmas' and 'take it back.' Whether you're a mom who can't wait to have family Home for the Holidays, the Scrooge-y Bah Humbug type who detests that first Christmas carol played in the department store the day after Thanksgiving, or someone who's reflected on why parents and other adults perpetuate the so-called Christmas lie of the big guy in the red suit sneaking around the chimney in the wee hours of the morning every December the 25th, you will be intrigued and, at times, unnerved by Johnson's claims and arguments. And what's the takeaway message? Something simple, yet profound, in light of the book as a whole: 'Whether you are Christian or not, religious or not,' Johnson tells us, 'everyone should feel free to celebrate Christmas.'"
---Robert Arp, PhD
"‘Tis the season to examine everything we think we know about Christmas. Dr. Johnson thoroughly debunks the myths that have hidden the holiday’s true history and prevented us from experiencing the joy that only an honest understanding can bring. Johnson returns Christmas to everyone who wants it and proves that an honest holiday can still be good, for goodness' sake."
---Darren Smith, Lehigh Valley Humanists
The Myths that Stole Christmas Book Talks
with David Kyle Johnson
David Kyle Johnson is available to give talks and lead discussions based around The Myths that Stole Christmas. Come and hear him speak at the events listed below, and check back frequently for updates!
Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia
November 29, 2015
Upper Moreland Library
Willow Grove, PA
Learn more here.
Lehigh Valley Humanists
December 6, 2015
Allentown Brew Works