‘Tis the season for Kelly Kazek’s new book, “Christmas Tales of Alabama.”
Published in early November by The History Press, “Christmas Tales of Alabama” contains a number of entertaining “Yuletide yarns from the Yellowhammer State” and it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for the booklover on your Christmas list.
Kazek lives in Madison and serves as the managing editor of The News-Courier newspaper in Athens. In more than 20 years as a journalist, she’s won more than 130 national and state press awards.
In “Christmas Tales of Alabama,” she brings her talents to bear on the subject of Christmas, and the result is one of the best books you’ll ever read about Christmas in our part of the world.
Stories in the book feature an entertaining mix of tales, including the origin of Birmingham native Hugh Martin’s hit Christmas song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”; Helen Keller’s first true Christmas after her breakthrough with teacher Anne Sullivan; Harper Lee’s life-changing 1956 Christmas; and Truman Capote’s Christmases with relatives in Monroeville and how they affected his career.
I especially liked the chapter in which Kazek analyses more than a century of National Climatic Data Center and National Weather Service records to determine if there’s ever been a true white Christmas in Alabama. Meteorologists say that in Alabama there’s less than a five percent chance of snow on Christmas in any given year and those chances decrease the closer you get to the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, according to Kazek’s research, Mobile has never had a true white Christmas because meteorologists only count snow accumulations of one inch or more.
I also liked the chapter that discussed “The Eggnog Riot” at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 1826. While this didn’t happen in Alabama, two of the cadets involved in smuggling several gallons of whiskey into the school were from Alabama, Samuel Alexander Roberts and William R. Burnley.
The cadets wanted to add the whiskey to eggnog for a party that night, and while this doesn’t sound like a big deal nowadays, it was a scandal at that time. Before the end of the year, 70 cadets were implicated in the “riot” and 19 were court-martialed and expelled. You may have heard of some of them before. Their ranks included Jefferson Davis, who would go on to graduate from West Point and serve as president of the Confederate States of America.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Kazek’s book wraps up with a few chapters that discuss New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras in Alabama. Kazek provides an entertaining history of the origins of the Mobile Moon Pie, Joe Cain Day and similar topics.
In the end, I really enjoyed the book, and I highly recommend it to anyone in the reading audience who’s interested in learning more about our state’s Christmas traditions.
If you like “Christmas Tales of Alabama,” you might want to check out some of Kazek’s other books. They include “Fairly Odd Mother: Musings of a Slightly Off Southern Mom,” “Hidden History of Auburn,” “Forgotten Tales of Alabama,” “Forgotten Tales of Tennessee,” “A History of Alabama’s Deadliest Tornadoes: Disaster in Dixie,” and “Images of America: Athens and Limestone County.”