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Paperback Christmas in America Book

ISBN: 0195109805

ISBN13: 9780195109801

Christmas in America

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Book Overview

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...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Great Resource, but a Little Bit of a Dry Read

Like much of American History, how we celebrate Christmas today and what we "believe" about its historical importance to the United States is based on either myth or marketing or both. Penne L. Restad has written an important history of this most sacred holiday over the past 300 years that will set the record straight for anyone who dares to question the status quo. Some of what you will learn from this book includes the fact that 200 plus years ago, most Christians in America did not celebrate Christmas for various reasons from its debauched history in England to the fact that Christ was not born on December 25; the Founding Fathers did not pay much attention to Christmas, even holding Congress on Christmas Day (again, because of its importance in England) though loosely based on centuries of myth and storytelling, the modern Santa Claus is the product of corporate marketing; Christmas in America did not gain national importance until after the Civil War as way to unite a torn nation. Though this book is an important resource on a prominant aspect of American History, and a must read for those who wish to fully understand the Christmas holiday and all of its trappings, be warned that this is a bit of a dry read; not because Restad is a bad writer, but the coupling of her historian's approach to the topic and the shear abundance of information, this book suffers a little in the narrative. >>>>>>><<<<<<< <br /> <br />A Guide to my Book Rating System: <br /> <br />1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper. <br />2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead. <br />3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted. <br />4 stars = Good book, but not life altering. <br />5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.

Serious students of the Holidays phenomenon take note:

Restad knows her stuff and doesn't hesitate to engage controversial aspects of the season. This is part of an ongoing conversation, and should be read in dialogue with the (in my mind) better book, The Battle for Christmas by Nissenbaum. However, Restad's book is an excellent one for anyone who seeks to understand the "whys" of the cultural traditions that bombard us. As well as get some handle on the "hows" of doing things differently in your own life.

America's values and conflicts as seen through Christmas.

Author Penne Restad has written an excellent historical account of how the evolution of Christmas in America since colonial times parallels the evolution of the American collective mind. Going beyond the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, America's favorite holiday has been molded in the last 300 years by the idiosyncracies and anxieties of the American people, these being reflected, for example, in gift-giving customs, the use of evergreen trees, or more poignantly in the nation's portrayal of Santa Claus. I was truly fascinated with the wealth of information Ms. Restad presented in this serious, objective book. Think for a moment that Christmas was not observed universally in America until well into the nineteenth century, especially after the Civil War; before then, a rather lukewarm observance of the holiday was not public and basically was determined by religious and ethnic background (a reflection of the days when our country's idea of nationhood was still in its formative stage). The book also covers in detail the changes Christmas brought to the celebrations of Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Ms. Restad's narrative of our celebration of Christmas brings to light the complexities of the American psyche; we become enmeshed in conflicts between the sacred and profane, the spiritual and material (the celebration of Christmas in the antebellum South could not escape the dichotomy of freedom and slavery as well). Even as it prompts us to confront and come to terms with these conflicts, "Christmas in America: A History" also acknowledges the feeling of generosity, good will, and universal brotherhood the holiday inspires in us as a people; it is a work of great scholarship.

I read it in manuscript.Finally makes sense of American Xmas

This is a really accessible and entertaining book about the holiday. Recommended very highly
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