After recounting the Nativity as it appears in the Gospels, Miss Cooney introduces the observance of the event thus: "Long before the birth of Jesus there were midwinter festivals," signal that this is to be a historical and not a doctrinaire Christmas. The Northern Yule season is credited with the ceremony of the Yule log and the appearance of Odin as precursor to St. Nicholas; to the Roman Saturnalia is attributed the practice of ceasing activity, feasting and exchanging gifts in December. "Finally, five hundred years after Jesus was born, the Church decided to celebrate Jesus' birthday in December. In this way, many of the merry pagan customs become part of the Christmas festival." Brief mention of the manner of celebrating in different countries (including the U.S.) and some legendary references conclude. Without approaching irreverence, this is an informed, sensible presentation and a supplement to the many legendary recreations.