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Consumer rites : the buying & selling of American holidays /
Leigh Eric Schmidt.
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1995.
description
xvi, 363 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0691029806 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1995.
isbn
0691029806 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
1373061
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [311]-358) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Leigh Eric Schmidt is an Associate Professor of History at Princeton University.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1995-09-18:
In this scholarly account, Schmidt (Holy Fairs) traces how the union of commerce and religion in the celebration of U.S. holidays was established. Early Protestant reformers frowned on festive observances, and it was not until the mid-1800s that holidays became associated with feasting and gift-giving by the new culture of merchandising. Advertisers transformed the medieval celebration of St. Valentine's Day into a modern explosion of cards and candy. Commercialization of Christmas, New Year's Day and Easter soon followed. Schmidt limits his carefully researched study to Christian holidays and acknowledges that he is sympathetic to the mix of the sacred and the secular. Taking issue with critics who assail holidays as devoid of meaning, Schmidt argues that commercialization includes deeply felt religious elements and that modern celebrations were ritualized by women who welcomed an area of power in domestic life. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 1996-05-01:
Schmidt's book is essentially the first cultural studies and historical analysis of selected US holidays, their origins, evolution, and current forms. Separate chapters are devoted to Christmas-New Year's, Easter, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day. Schmidt also makes very brief comments about more recent holidays such as Kwanzaa. He observes that these holidays function because women have played an essential role in making them work. The central issue of Schmidt's analysis is the tension between the idealistic and often spiritual origin of most holidays and the displacement of the original meaning by business and commerce. More than 100 excellent illustrations make this book visually rich and enable readers to have a "feel" for the holiday and historical period presented. Schmidt's scholarship is extraordinarily thorough and his documentation outstanding. Although the book's dust jacket is written and designed to appeal to general readers, the vocabulary is esoteric and possibly inaccessible to them, e.g., "Sabbatarianism was the regnant religious perspective in the colonies." Several chapters include materials Schmidt has published previously in scholarly journals. Upper-division undergraduates and above. S. H. Hildahl Wells College
Reviews
Review Quotes
"[A] richly documented, smoothly narrated, and lavishly illustrated [study] by a cultural historian who knows his stuff and tells it with panache. Consumer Rites is good history and good reading. . . . A brilliant chronicle of the American tale where domesticated remnants of Protestant religion, not nationalist identity alone, drove developments, and where capitalist expansion was in the driver's seat."-- Lawrence A. Hoffman, Cross Currents
"Conceptually sophisticated, wide ranging; [Schmidt] treats Valentine's Day, Easter, and Mother's Day as well as Christmas all within a delicately balanced framework of tensions between market rationality and romantic sentiment. . . . [A] fresh and timely alternative to contemporary academic fashion."-- Jackson Lears, The New Republic
" Consumer Rites is good history and good reading. . . . a terrific story terrifically told. . . . richly documented, smoothly narrated, and lavishly illustrated by a cultural historian who knows his stuff and tells it with panache. . . . Give it as a gift next Christmas, Mother's Day or Father's Day! It's the American thing to do."-- Cross Currents
"Filled with interesting facts and nascent ideas."-- Fred Miller Robinson, The New York Times Book Review
Honorable Mention for the 1996 Ray and Pat Browne Award for Best Book in Popular Culture
"Its that time of year again: holiday shopping, and lots of it. Ever wonder how this American tradition got started? In this enlightening book, Leigh Eric Schmidt looks at holidays in our country and how they've evolved over the past 150 years into highly commercialized events. . . . Consumer Rites is without question a true holiday gift, and it makes for fascinating reading."-- Washington Post Book World
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, September 1995
Publishers Weekly, September 1995
Choice, May 1996
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Back Cover Copy
"The real merit of this book lies in its complex sympathies: it is at once a major contribution to American religious history and to cultural history."-- David D. Hall, Harvard University
Main Description
Slogans such as "Let's put Christ back into Christmas" or "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" hold an appeal to Christians who oppose the commercializing of events they hold sacred. However, through a close look at the rise of holidays in the United States, Leigh Schmidt show us that commercial appropriations of these occasions were as religious in form as they were secular. The rituals of America's holiday bazaar that emerged in the nineteenth century offered a luxuriant merger of the holy and the profane--a heady blend of fashion and faith, merchandising and gift-giving, profits and sentiments, all celebrations of a devout consumption. In this richly illustrated book, which captures both the blessings and ballyhoo of American holiday observances for the mid-eighteenth century through the twentieth, the author offers a reassessment of the "consumer rites" that various social critics have long decried for their spiritual emptiness and banal sentimentality. Schmidt tells the story of how holiday celebrations were almost banished by Puritans and other religious reformers in the colonies but went on to be romanticized and reinvented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Merchants and advertisers were crucial for the reimagining of the holidays, promoting them in a grand, carnivalesque manner, which could include gargantuan fruit cakes, masked Santa Clauses, and exploding valentines. Along the way Schmidt uses everything from diaries to manuals on church decoration and window display to show in bright detail the ways in which people have prepared for and celebrated specific holidays--such as going Christmas shopping, making love tokens, choosing Easter bonnets, sending flowers to Mom, buying ties for Dad. He demonstrates in particular how women took the lead as holiday consumers, shaping warm-hearted celebrations of home and family through their intricate engagement with the marketplace. Bringing together the history of business, religion, and gender, this book offers a fascinating cultural history of an endlessly debated marvel--the commercialization of the American holidays.
Unpaid Annotation
Reexamining the story of holidays in the United States, Leigh Schmidt shows that commercial appropriations of these occasions were actually as religious in form as they were secular. The new rituals of America's holiday bazaar offered a luxuriant merger of the holy and the profane - a heady blend of fashion and faith, merchandising and gift giving, profits and sentiments. In this richly illustrated book that captures both the blessings and ballyhoo of American holiday observances from the mid-eighteenth century through the twentieth, the author offers a reassessment of the "consumer rites" that various social critics have long decried for their spiritual emptiness and banal sentimentality. Schmidt uses everything from diaries to manuals on church decoration and window display to show in bright detail the ways people have prepared for and celebrated specific holidays - such as going Christmas shopping, making love tokens, choosing Easter bonnets, sending flowers to Mom, or buying ties for Dad. He demonstrates, in particular, how women took the lead as holiday consumers, shaping warm-hearted celebrations of home and family through their intricate engagement with the marketplace. Bringing together the history of business, religion, and gender, this book offers a fascinating cultural history of an endlessly debated marvel - the commercialization of American holidays.
Unpaid Annotation
"The real merit of this book lies in its complex sympathies: it is at once a major contribution to American religious history and to cultural history."--David D. Hall, Harvard University
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introductionp. 3
Time Is Moneyp. 17
Church Festivals and Commercial Fairs: The Peddling of Festivityp. 19
"Enterprise Holds Carnival, While Poetry Keeps Lent": From Sabbatarian Discipline to Romantic Longingp. 23
A Commercial Revolution: National Holidays and the Consumer Culturep. 32
St. Valentine's Day Greetingp. 38
St. Valentine's Pilgrimage from Christian Martyr to Patron of Lovep. 40
The Handmade and the Ready-Made: Of Puzzle Purses, Chapbooks, and the Valentine Voguep. 47
Remaking the Holiday's Rituals: The Marketing of Valentines, 1840-1860p. 63
Mock Valentines: A Private Charivarip. 77
"A Meaner Sort of Merchandize" or "A Pleasure without Alloy"? The New Fashion Contested and Celebratedp. 85
Expanding Holiday Trade: From Confectioners' Hearts to Hallmark Cardsp. 94
Christmas Bazaarp. 105
The Rites of the New Year: Revels, Gifts, Resolutions, and Watch Nightsp. 108
The Birth of the Christmas Market, 1820-1900p. 122
Shopping towards Bethlehem: Women and the Victorian Christmasp. 148
Christmas Cathedrals: Wanamaker's and the Consecration of the Marketplacep. 159
Magi, Miracles, and Macy's: Enchantment and Disenchantment in the Modern Celebrationp. 169
Putting Christ in Christmas and Keeping Him There: The Piety of Protestp. 175
Easter Paradep. 192
"In the Beauty of the Lilies": The Art of Church Decoration and the Art of Window Displayp. 194
Piety, Fashion, and a Spring Promenadep. 210
"A Bewildering Array of Plastic Forms": Easter Knickknacks and Noveltiesp. 219
Raining on the Easter Parade: Protest, Subversion, and Disquietp. 234
Mother's Day Bouquetp. 244
Anna Jarvis and the Churches: Sources of a New Celebrationp. 246
Commercial Floriculture and the Moral Economy of Flowers: The Marketing of Mother's Dayp. 256
Pirates, Profiteers and Trespassers: Negotiating the Bounds of Church, Home, and Marketplacep. 267
The Invention of Father's Day: The Humbug of Modern Ritualp. 275
Epilogue: April Fools? Trade, Trickery, and Modern Celebrationp. 293
Acknowledgmentsp. 305
Notesp. 311
Indexp. 359
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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