The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum

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Anyone who laments the excesses of Christmas might consider the Puritans of colonial Massachusetts: they simply outlawed the holiday. The Puritans had their reasons, since Christmas was once an occasion for drunkenness and riot, when poor "wassailers  extorted food and drink from the well-to-do. In this intriguing and innovative work of social history, Stephen Nissenbaum rediscovers Christmas's carnival origins and shows how it was transformed, during the nineteenth century, into a festival of domesticity and consumerism. 
Drawing on a wealth of period documents and illustrations, Nissenbaum charts the invention of our current Yuletide traditions, from St. Nicholas to the Christmas tree and, perhaps most radically, the practice of giving gifts to children. Bursting with detail, filled with subversive readings of such seasonal classics as "A Visit from St. Nicholas  and A Christmas Carol, The Battle for Christmas captures the glorious strangeness of the past even as it helps us better understand our present.  

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Stephen Nissenbaum

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Stephen Nissenbaum received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1961, his M.A. from Columbia University in 1963, and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1968. He has taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst since 1968, and is currently professor of history there. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Antiquarian Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Charles Warren Center at Harvard. In addition, he was James P. Harrison Professor of History at the College of William and Mary, 1989-90. Active in the public humanities, he has served as member and president of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, and as historical advisor for several film productions. The Battle for Christmas was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in History in 1997.
Published December 1, 2010 by Vintage. 400 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Battle for Christmas

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Impressive art, in fact, is a highlight of the book, especially as Nissenbaum traces the physical changes of old Santa (who first appeared looking fairly plebeian and skinny).

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Publishers Weekly

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Christmas in America hasn't always been the benevolent, family-centered holiday we idealize. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony so feared the day's association with pagan winter solstice rev

Nov 04 1996 | Read Full Review of The Battle for Christmas

Publishers Weekly

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From colonial New England, through 18th- and 19th-century New York's and Philadelphia's urban Yuletide contributions, to Christmas traditions in the antebellum South, Nissenbaum's excursion is fascinating, and will startle even those who thought they knew all there was to know about Christmas.

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