A review by theliteraryphoenix
The Hidden History of the Holidays, by Hannah Harvey

informative slow-paced


The Hidden History of the Holidays was... fine.  Just fine. As an historian, I was expecting more of a deep dive, but in all fairness, the lecturer warned me right at the beginning of the course that she is a storyteller. For the most part, my experience with the Great Courses has been in purely history (and one science...) courses taught by professors at-or-near the top of their field. This one took a different angle.

Because I do have some knowledge of history, I knew quickly that some of the explanations she gave were extremely oversimplified. For example, in discussing Mardi Gras, she completely breezed past the varied and rich history of Carnival in the Caribbean islands and why Carnival reached there in the first place. In talking about Day of the Dead, she mentioned Viking funerals which are much more pop culture than history. So as far as actual historical accuracy goes... I learned quickly to take this with a grain of salt.

I will say for the completely uninitiated, The Hidden History of the Holidays provides insight into some possible influences and origins of modern American Holidays (and, yes, this is strictly limited to the United States). It's interesting but only scrapes the surface and is told like a story (sound effects and all at times) rather than a deep dive into the origins. It feels like a hearth tale, or campfire history and should be taken loosely as such.  Interesting, but definitely lost me in some of the presentation methods and lack of complete accuracy.

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