Christmas in America
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Christmas in America : A History

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Description

Twentieth-century America often seems obsessed with the idea of Christmas. It is a time of public displays, illuminated department stores, and the showing of popular films such as Miracle on 34th Street, and It's a Wonderful Life. This book describes the evolution of Christmas celebration in America since the early 17th century. It looks how there came about such holiday traditions as Santa Claus, Christmas trees and trimmings, gift-giving and charity-giving, Christmas cards and wrappings. The book brilliantly puts this description into the broader context of social and economic change, the influence of women, and the impact of popular entertainment and culture. Did you know...? * The effects of the Civil War helped establish Christmas as a national holiday, as soldiers and their families increasingly saw it as a symbol of 'home'. * During the early years of the nation, Puritan New England hardly celebrated Christmas at all, while in the South it was a sumptuous and rowdy occasion. * The tradition of the Christmas tree was introduced to America by German immigrants. * A little known clergyman, Clement Moore, largely created the image of Santa Claus with his 'An Account of the Visit from St. Nicholas'.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 521.63g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 8 pp halftones
  • 0195093003
  • 9780195093001

About Penne Lee Restad

Penne L. Restad is a freelance writer.show more

Back cover copy

In Christmas in America, Restad brilliantly captures the rise and transformation of our most universal national holiday. In colonial times, it was celebrated either as an utterly solemn or a wildly social event - if it was celebrated at all. Virginians hunted, danced, and feasted. City dwellers flooded the streets in raucous demonstrations. Puritan New Englanders denounced the whole affair. Restad shows that as times changed, Christmas changed - and grew in popularity. In the early 1800s, New York served as an epicenter of the newly emerging holiday, drawing on its roots as a Dutch colony (St. Nicholas was particularly popular in the Netherlands, even after the Reformation), and aided by such men as Washington Irving. In 1822, another New Yorker named Clement Clarke Moore penned a poem now known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas", virtually inventing the modern Santa Claus. Well-to-do townspeople displayed a German novelty, the decorated fir tree, in their parlors; an enterprising printer discovered the money to be made from Christmas cards; and a hodgepodge of year-end celebrations began to coalesce around December 25 and the figure of Santa. The homecoming significance of the holiday increased with the Civil War, and by the end of the nineteenth century a full-fledged national holiday had materialized, forged out of borrowed and invented custom alike, and driven by a passion for gift-giving. In the twentieth century, Christmas seeped into every niche of our conscious and unconscious lives to become a festival of epic proportions. Indeed, Restad carries the story through to our own time, unwrapping the messages hidden inside countless movies, books, and television shows, revealingthe inescapable presence - and ambiguous meaning - of Christmas in contemporary culture.show more

Review quote

a charmingly informative work of social history * Sally Singer, The Guardian * both informative and illuminating, a gem of cultural history ... Best of all, Restad offers an intelligent and richly furnished answer to all the Christmas killjoys who shake their heads over modern materialism and secularism. * Christina Hardyment, The Independent *show more

Rating details

38 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 16% (6)
4 39% (15)
3 39% (15)
2 5% (2)
1 0% (0)
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