Top positive review
Scholarly study of how Christmas customs evolved in the USA
on January 3, 2018
The Battle for Christmas, by Stephen Nissenbaum, is a fascinating study of opposing views of the Christmas celebration in America. When immigrants brought their Christmas rituals from northern and southern Europe, the customs were not always welcome. Puritans dismissed Christmas as a pagan celebration masquerading as a Christian feast. Some celebrations, particularly those related to Saturnalia and the Yule feast, were rowdy affairs. Drunken gangs demanded food and drink from rich residents, a practice that was later tamed into “Wassailing.”
In an attempt to tone down the violence, Washington Irving published the Knickerbocker History of New York, in which the narrator claimed to remember the peaceful and loving family celebrations of Old Dutch New York. Not many years later, Clement Moore wrote “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” which established a new image of Father Christmas as a jolly fat man who gave presents to children.
Nissenbaum provides careful research for each point he makes about the change in views about Christmas. I found the book a very interesting read.