Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Christmas is a time for the crunch of snow, spiced wine, and tinseled trees. Christmas is a time for giving, meeting friends, and feasting. Christmas is a time for carols, family gatherings, gaudy greeting cards, and all the jollity of the seasonal spirit. Christmas is also a time for science.

Chemists are hard at work in the Christmas kitchen. Experts on thermodynamics have drafted equations to help us cook turkeys to perfection, scanners have scrutinized streaming plum puddings, and pharmacologists have traced the baroque metabolic pathways of the brain to explain why chocolates can be so addictive. 
——Roger Highfield, The Physics of Christmas

Reindeer have a curious arrangement of gadgetry on top of their heads which we call antlers and naively assume exist for the males to do battle to win females. This is absolute nonsense. The antlers are actually fractal vortex-shedding devices.

There is growing evidence that those who respect relegious traditions, and preseumably those who take Christmas seriously, can expect a healthier life.

I've collected Christmas books for years, and must have at least a couple hundred. Their contents range from anthologies of seasonal poetry, short stories, and novels, to histories of the holiday and its customs and traditions, sketches and narratives of remembered Christmases by various writers, cookbooks, even a craft book or two, though Myladylove collects the latter two categories and probably has upwards of a hundred Christmas volumes of her own.

This year, starting on the first day of December, I thought it might be fun to dip into a few of these works and share a quote or two from their pages—a few lines of poetry, a bit of prose, maybe even a recipe—on a daily basis, a sort of "Christmas Quotedown," which I'll put up in addition to my regular posts. I'll also include a photo of the book's cover, from which the day's quotes are taken—though a few, lacking a dust jacket or any sort of fancy cover design, might be decidedly non-photogenic. On the other hand, several of my favorite Christmas works are quotably rich troves, indeed, and thus might end up furnishing more than a day's worth of quotes—though I'm starting out with the notion of a different book each day. 

Along the way, I hope I select some things you enjoy. 

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