Catalogue


Christmas in America [electronic resource] : a history /
Penne L. Restad.
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 1995.
description
x, 219 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0195093003 (acid-free paper)
format(s)
Book
More Details
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 1995.
isbn
0195093003 (acid-free paper)
restrictions
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
8113785
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 173-209) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1996-05-01:
Restad's splendid social history of America's premier religious and secular holiday makes a signal contribution to the scholarship of American culture. As Restad (history, Univ. of Texas-Austin) documents, Christmas in the US evolved from Colonial celebrations, often raucous and profane, over the course of the 19th century to its current place in the national imagination. A major milestone was the genesis of the modern Santa Claus in Clement Clarke Moore's 1822 epic "The Night Before Christmas," enhanced by Thomas Nast's creation of Santa's graphic image in his Harper's Weekly Christmas cartoons. Other important contributions to the development of the American observance of Christmas were the German innovation of the decorated tree, the introduction of the Christmas card, and the passion for gift-giving. Meticulously researched and deftly written, Restad's study merits a place on the shelves of every academic and public library. All levels. R. A. Fischer University of Minnesota--Duluth
Reviews
Review Quotes
"[A] fresh and timely alternative to contemporary academic fashion.... [Restad] knows enough about anthropology to have a subtle understanding of how rituals work, enough cultural history to know that 'time-honored traditions' can be invented overnight, enough diaries, letters, and manuscripts to have a lot of good stories to tell."--Jackson Lears, The New Republic"The most fascinating parts of this book concern the invention of Christmas and Santa Claus throughout the nineteenth century, the way in which the holiday referred back to a fictional past, and the shift in focus from public to domestic holiday with, first, women and then children being seen as its fulcrum.... This is a fine book of far greater than merely seasonal interest."--The Boston Sunday Globe"Chronicle[s] the development of the peculiarly American version of Christmas.... In the course of her clear, brisk, and engaging narrative, [Restad] provides us with a good deal of holiday food for thought."--Fred Miller Robinson, The New York Times Book Review
This item was reviewed in:
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
Main Description
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 sacred thoughts and worldly actions-- as well as a fascinating reflection of our changing society. InChristmas 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 Americareveals 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 filmHome Alone, Restad's sparkling account offers much to amuse and ponder.
Main Description
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 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.
Long Description
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 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.

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