Christmas in America: A History

Christmas in America A History The manger or Macy s Americans might well wonder which is the real shrine of Christmas as they take part each year in a mix of churchgoing shopping and family togetherness But the history of Christ

  • Title: Christmas in America: A History
  • Author: Penne L. Restad
  • ISBN: 9780195109801
  • Page: 405
  • Format: Paperback
  • The manger or Macy s Americans might well wonder which is the real shrine of Christmas, as they take part each year in a mix of churchgoing, shopping, and family togetherness But the history of Christmas cannot be summed up so easily as the commercialization of a sacred day As Penne Restad reveals in this marvelous new book, it has always been an ambiguous meld of sacreThe manger or Macy s Americans might well wonder which is the real shrine of Christmas, as they take part each year in a mix of churchgoing, shopping, and family togetherness But the history of Christmas cannot be summed up so easily as the commercialization of a sacred day As Penne Restad reveals in this marvelous new book, it has always been an ambiguous meld of sacred thoughts and worldly actions as well as a fascinating reflection of our changing society 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, revealing the inescapable presence and ambiguous meaning of Christmas in contemporary culture Filled with colorful detail and shining insight, Christmas in America reveals not only much about the emergence of the holiday, but also what our celebrations tell us about ourselves From drunken revelry along colonial curbstones to family rituals around the tree, from Thomas Nast drawing the semiofficial portrait of St Nick to the making of the film Home Alone, Restad s sparkling account offers much to amuse and ponder.

    One thought on “Christmas in America: A History”

    1. I started reading this book to hopefully learn what Christmas was like in the 1911 - 1913 time frame. For that purpose, the book was not well organized. For example, on one page the first year referenced was 1898. Then it jumped back to 1874, then forward again to 1893. That made it difficult to follow the development of the American Christmas tree or the development of the holiday in general.Differences in how various ethnic groups celebrated are covered, but that also suffers from time jumps.I [...]

    2. This had a lot of information, but I found it almost oddly organized. There was a rough chronology, but it tended to jump around a bit. And for being about Christmas, it read rather dry. If you're interested in reading up on Christmas during the holiday season I would point you toward Merry Christmas!: Celebrating Americas Greatest Holiday.

    3. This book was very readable, giving clear descriptions and analysis and plenty of historical quotes and examples to illustrate the author's points. The exploration of the early foundations of Christmas, Christmas among the colonists, and how it transformed over the 19th century are all thoroughly examined. I felt the 20th century was less well examined, and the last chapter felt rushed and incomplete. Overall it was an highly enjoyable and informative read.

    4. Good background on the evolution of the holiday in Americaock full of detail.The author develops a basic timeline in sharing her analysis. Unfortunately, she goes back and forth at times which can become annoying. In the chapter that deals with the Gilded Age, Restad cites examples from the 1830s and 1840s which she actually noted some chapters before when talking about Christmas in the slave-holding South.For this reason I am docking a star and rating the book a four.

    5. A reader-friendly history of so many of America's holiday traditions, Restad's study is sure to please those who wonder whence such disparate customs came. Further comments may be found at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.

    6. A quick & enjoyable read. Various historical accounts of popular Christmas traditions and their evolution. It is sad how commercialized things have become.

    7. I loved this book. It gave me so much information about how Americans have celebrated the Christmas season over the years.

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