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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.
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on December 6, 2012
I used to read "A Christmas Carol" every year as a tradition and now I have added this to my annual read list. This book gives the history of Christmas and explains how many of the traditions that we consider to be timeless and carried over to the US from "the old country" were carefully crafted and introduced a mere 100-150 years ago by wealth businessmen in New York who wanted to transform the raucous street fair that was Christmas (more like Mardi Gras) into a more peaceful time to focus on family and children ... throw in Thomas Nast and the advertising industry and you have the birth of the modern Christmas season that is so often the rant of the day on Fox News during this time of year.

According to Professor Nissenbaum the Christmas that we love to hate today was born out of the ideas of a small group of men in New York City and London as a way of transforming Christmas from a rowdy working class street festival to what it has become. Further, Christmas wasn't much practiced at all in the United States until the late 19th century and was outright banned in many of the early colonies.

This look at how Christmas has changed and evolved is essential reading if you want to have a conversation with someone who rants and raves about their perceptions of people who don't celebrate Christmas the way that they want you to celebrate it. Understanding the history of this seminal holiday in the United States helps to understand how it has become what it is and how, above all else, Christmas is a commercial holiday that hasn't had much to do with religion for a long time. My advice to those who want to hit people over the head with the religious nature of Christmas ... celebrate it without the spending spree that was artificially tacked onto the holiday by the men that are described in this book.
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on May 31, 2017
Quite excellent and entertaining book on the history of our Christmas customs. Eye opener and puts things in perspective. It was a gift and I have purchased at least two as gifts.
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on March 15, 2006
People often say that it is sad that Christmas is more about Santa Claus than Christianity. This book, however, shows that Christmas as we know it has always been about Santa and that before Santa Christmas was so horrible that Christians preferred not to celebrate it at all. Amazingly our Christmas tradition is based on the "Night Before Christmas" poem first published in a New York newspaper in 1823 and this tradition had taken its current form with all of its commercialism by 1830. Nissenbaum is to be commended for digging out this history and showing what the problems with Christmas were over a number of centuries and especially in the colonia American period and how the author of the poem altered and shaped other sources, particularly contributions by Washinton Irving, to alter social behavior around this holiday. The book also discusses the coming of the Christmas tree, the place of Dickens in our Christmas myths, and the role of the Christmas tradition in Black history. The book may need to be revised, however, since there seems to be some controversy about who the author of "The Night Before Christmas" really was. Other more recent books now seem to be available on this piece of history, but this book is the original research on the subject.
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on November 15, 2017
My son and I loved this book. It was a great purchase.
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on January 11, 2018
good book
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on September 20, 2008
All history books should be this easy to read!
This is a wonderful and insightful survey of what primary sources (personal letters, printed documents and such) have to say about the development of the Christmas holiday as we know it here in the US.
The writing is cogent and never bogs even the casual reader down with dates, times, names and places. All the information is there, but it's utterly upstaged by the actual history and social trends.
This is not a religious history, but a social history of our Christmas customs, such as Xmas trees, gift-giving, or Santa Claus, and Nissenbaum nails it-- it's marvelous.

If they taught History in high school using texts like this, everybody would LIKE reading history.
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VINE VOICEon November 19, 2005
Readable, researched, and endlessly interesting, The Battle For Christmas is the best history of our modern holiday available. Nissenbaum writes with a clear voice, and presents a mountain of research flitered through a keen eye for culture. He debunks many of the myths surrounding the holiday, and shows where our modern traditions truly came from (mostly Victorian invention, not medieval tradition or Christian dogma). It's an interesting mix of invention, suppression, and substitution that really aimed to create a holiday for everyone (not just Christians) ... and has, as the years have passed, actually begun to fulfil that promise.

This book quite literally changed the way I viewed Christmas. I appreciate the holiday and enjoy the season much more than I used to!
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on December 18, 2017
Excellent detailed analysis of the evolution of the holiday.
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on January 9, 2017
Great book! Really opened my eyes about the history of Christmas.
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