This delightful, unusual collection of Christmas stories, poems, and other writings spans the centuries to modern times, centering around the country homeboth fictional and realand the customs and festivities of the season. Following King James's Royal Proclamation of 1622 on how his subjects were to spend Christmas, the reader is guest in castles, mansions, manor houses, and ordinary homes at Christmastime through the ages. Not the ordinary Christmas literary fare, the writings include "The Host's Story'' a poem by Charles Dickens, "Mistletoe Over the Bed,'' from Henry James's Vile Bodies, Harold Macmillan's "Good Sport, Chatsworth,'' John Aubrey's "Chivalry at Christmas,'' A.L. Rowse's "An Elizabethan Christmas,'' the Bracebridge Hall stories of Washington Irving (who first introduced readers to the now-familiar customs of Christmas usually associated with Dickens), and poems by Robert Herrick, and T.H. Bayly, among others. Don't miss Robert May's 1660 instructions on how to make Christmas Cracker noisemakers from hollowed-out eggsa craft project that would make Martha Stewart envious! Black-and-white illustrations.