The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Season...

Editor's Choice

January 05, 2003|By Michael Pakenham

The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Season Holidays, by Anthony F. Aveni. Oxford University, 192 pages, $25.

Professor of Astrology and Anthropology at Colgate University and a respected authority on time and the physical universe, Aveni has put together an enchantingly readable, sophisticated yet utterly accessible tracing of major holidays and why and where they arose. Noting that the word "season" means "time due" in Greek, his introduction declares, "We punctuate the seasons with rites, formalities, or ceremonies. We fix each to its appropriate time in anticipation of the outcomes we desire -- what we feel we are due." Just why we are due the Easter bunny or Labor Day (look to the medieval time wars for the latter) is a question too elaborate to delineate here. But anyone who digs into this lovely little book, I swear, will be quoting citations from it for the next generation.

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