From Publishers Weekly
Why do we celebrate Easter by telling children that a rabbit will bring them eggs and candy? Why do we make New Year's resolutions? Why do we engage in rituals like bobbing for apples on Halloween, watching football on Thanksgiving, and giving chocolate on Valentine's Day? Aveni, a professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate, provides answers to these and many other questions in this delightful little book about the origins and modern development of our holidays. Our red-letter days, he contends, have evolved over the centuries as various cultures use them to reflect specific cultural concerns. For example, Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic festival Samhain, the official first day of winter in early medieval Ireland. On that day, spirits roamed the earth, revisiting their homes, pleading with their relatives for prayers, and eating a warm meal before they returned to their graves. While the modern celebration of Halloween resembles Samhain, Aveni argues that the holiday provides adults with an opportunity to cope with the fear of the unknown by allowing children to dress as ghosts, goblins and spirits. Overall, Aveni contends, we try to gain some control over nature and our lives by capturing the rhythms of the seasons on our calendars and by dividing our lives into segments governed by special days. Although not a thorough and definitive study of seasonal holidays, Aveni's book provides entertaining glimpses into the cultural evolution of holidays, and explores our human desire to make time work in our favor.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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"An enchantingly readable, sophisticated yet utterly accessible tracing of major holidays and why and where they arose.... Anyone who digs into this lovely little book... will be quoting citations from it for the next generation."--Baltimore Sun
"Delightful.... Aveni's book provides entertaining glimpses into the cultural evolution of holidays, and explores our human desire to make time work in our favor."--Publishers Weekly
"Anthony Aveni never ceases to amaze me with his ability to explain in charming, intelligent prose the many ways that human societies have been shaped by the rhythms and cycles of the natural world. In The Book of the Year
, he's done it again."--Steven Lagerfeld, Editor, The Wilson Quarterly