Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary

Published: 6th October 2016Goodreads badge
Pages: 96
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

It’s history with the NASTY bits left in!

Do you want to know:
– A very rude pantomine song?
– Why making Christmas pudding used to be a crime?
– How to get rid of carol singers?

Horrible Christmas tells you all the festive facts you ever wanted to find out but were too stuffed full of mince pies to ask.

It’s Christmas time and what better way to celebrate than with a fabulous book that tells you everything you know about Christmas is either wrong or even more interesting than you thought? Legendary series Horrible Histories has taken hold of Christmas and filled up this fabulous book with trivia, fun facts, and a whole heap of history both intriguing and horrible all relating to this the festive season.

The book is also incredible funny and quirky and I loved learning all the facts about Christmas and the surrounding myths and associations. There are multiple quizzes to test your knowledge and it is fascinating about all the old traditions that have either been forgotten or the ones that live on today but I had no idea of the original reasons why. There’s some science in there too as the realities of Santa’s sleighing and reindeer endeavours are worked out with maths and logic (a lot funner than it sounds), plus the horrible bits of history that wouldn’t be Horrible Histories without it.

The book is laid out with pictures, colours, and trivia boxes and full page stories. There are topics like chapters breaking up the book into relevant information like Christmas Carols, Christmas History, Rotten Christmas etc that keep the topics together but there is still general crossover. Great to pop in and out of when you need a certain fun fact.

I love learning new things and fun facts and trivia are some of my favourite things in the world so this book is right up my alley and it is presented in such a fun and non-intimidating way that it is easily accessible. It isn’t just page after page of facts, the best part is you learn things in different ways, not just quizzes, not just the fact lists but with storytelling and humorous writing too. Information like the first Christmas card was printed in 1843, or that kissing under the mistletoe comes from a Druid tradition are told in clever ways that are interactive and make it a fun experience.

My favourite fun facts from the book must be included here because they are wonderful:

  • There were no angels around when Jesus was born. The reporters wrote in Greek of ‘angelos’ being there which is not Greek for angels, it’s Greek for ‘messengers’.
  • Silent Night was first played on a guitar.
  • The first record of Christmas being written down is in 1038 in a Saxon book where it appears as Cristes Maesse.
  • Little Jack Horner (of thumb in pie fame) was actually a monk who (supposedly) tricked Henry VIII out of a land deed at Christmas.
  • In the 1600s the Germans decided that the Christ Child should be worshipped at Christmas. They called him Christkindl – German for Christ Child. This became Kris Kringle and became a name for Santa Claus instead.
  • Rudolph was created for an advert in 1939
  • In the 1800s Christmas had almost died out but Charles Dickens bought back its popularity with ‘A Christmas Carol’.

There’s definitely a lot more but these ones stood out. There’s so much to learn in this book about old customs, traditions from Victorians and other eras, other countries, present day and the past. It is fascinating to see what feels like an ingrained tradition or idea is actually manufactured or something so old was really a simple thing at first.

If you have been a fan of Horrible Histories in the past this is a great addition with a nice holiday theme, but if this is your first experience of Horrible Histories it is also a great book because you get to learn a little more about Christmas and its history and love the joyfulness that is Horrible Histories.

You can purchase Horrible Christmas via the following

QBDDymocks | Amazon

Fun Facts about The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman


The Subtle Knife is the second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It was first published in 1997 by Scholastic Point. Unlike Northern Lights that remains solely in one world, The Subtle Knife begins to explore other parallel worlds, and frequently jumps between three worlds.

The story opens with a new perspective, this time with Will Parry, a young boy from our world. And just like he did with Lyra, Pullman introduces these characters in the middle of a moment and expands the story around them. Will’s life is nothing like Lyra’s, and in our own world a lot more familiar, and after fleeing from his own problems stumbles across a window and finds Lyra, Pan, and a range of new things, both exciting and terrifying. Together Lyra and Will continue on their destined paths and open up a whole other level of Pullman’s creation adding even more depth and complexity to that established in the first book.

Just like Northern Lights, Pullman has included his own mini illustrations. The chapter illustrations are there once more, but Pullman has also thought it would be helpful for the readers to “have unobtrusive running-heads on each page, saying ‘Lyra’s world’ or ‘Will’s world’”, but his editor suggested he do it with little drawings instead; an alethiometer for Lyra’s world, a hornbeam tree for Will’s, a (subtle) knife for Cittàgazze etc. He chose not to explain them because it would be fun for readers to work out themselves that they’re for and what the symbols mean.

The title refers to the dagger found in Cittàgazze by Will and Lyra. Named The Subtle Knife or Æsahættr (pronounced “as-hatter” by the BBC Radio adaptation) meaning “God Destroyer”, it is described as looking like an ordinary dagger but able to cut through any material or substance – lead, flesh, even able to cut through the membrane that separates the worlds from each another. It has also been called “Teleutaia makhaira” which means “the last knife of all”.

The Subtle Knife has won a range of awards. It has won the Parents’ Choice Gold Book Award, American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, Booklist Editors’ Choice, Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book, Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book, Book Links Best Book of the Year, as well as American Bookseller Pick of the Lists.

Adaptations wise, The Subtle Knife was included in the 2003 His Dark Materials audiobook with Northern Lights, as well as the 2004-5 play, and was also formed part of a radio drama on BBC 4. In terms of film, the details and information of a film adaptation are contradictory and ever changing. Deborah Forte, producer of The Golden Compass, is adamant she’ll finish the trilogy, and originally New Line Cinema said a sequel would only be made if the first film was a success, but despite making twice its budget worldwide, the film did poorly in the USA, making the sequel’s fate unclear. Pullman said in 2011 that because of these poor sales in the USA no sequel would be made, but he has admitted he would still like one. I think The Subtle Knife has slightly less obvious religious controversy that I’ve noticed so it may go down better in some places, but even then it is all about doing the story justice. It’s too important not to.

You can read an extract from The Subtle Knife here.