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Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For A More Joyful Christmas Hardcover – December 2, 1998

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This brief, eloquently presented book offers a simple and inviting strategy for handling the most complicated holiday of our times--Christmas. Reacting to the commercialization and overspending that has come to define it, author Bill McKibben (The End of Nature) argues in favor of only spending a hundred dollars at Christmas. Rather than grousing about the deterioration of Christmas, McKibben matter-of-factly explains that there was a time that giving extravagant presents may have been a satisfying and meaningful ritual. "The Christmas we now celebrate grew up at a time when Americans were mostly poor ... mostly working with their hands and backs," he writes. If we now feel burdened and unsatisfied by the piles of gifts and overconsuming, it is not because Christmas has changed all that much, he adds, "It's because we have."

What we need and long for now are the gifts of time, meaningful family connections, periods of silence, a relationship with the divine, McKibben writes. How to give and receive the Christmas gifts that matters? Make homemade presents (he even offers a chapter's worth of great ideas). Give children coupons for zoo visits or an evening devoted to playing board games. It's likely that McKibben, a former staff writer for The New Yorker, could launch a national movement with this inviting and sensible concept. But no matter how many dollars you spend, factor the cost of this book into your Christmas budget! --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

Environmental author McKibben (Maybe One; The End of Nature, etc.) makes an impassioned plea for a less consumer-oriented, more meaningful Christmas celebration. But this book is more than just an echo of the recent vogue for simplicity. Tracing the history of American observance of the holiday season, McKibben discusses both the needs such festivities have filled and the excesses and problems they have created. McKibben avoids the trap of nostalgia for a nonexistent time when Christmas was free of commercialism or drunken reveling, but he recognizes the current holiday frenzy, dread and depression as symptomatic of "the underlying discontent in our lives." He offers thoughtful "new forms of celebration" to fill the cravings for "silence and solitude," "connection with each other and the natural world" and "some relationship with the divine" that plague these times. McKibben also blasts "those relentless commercial forces" that lead Americans to annual overspending. Instead, he suggests making the holidays as much fun as possible, filled with song and food, creativity and connection. One hundred dollars, McKibben says, is not a magic number or even the point, but rather a simple reminder "to give things that matter." Begun as a project for the author's rural Methodist church, this slim book offers us tips on giving one another the priceless Christmas gifts of time, attention and fellowship. Agent, Gloria Loomis.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (December 2, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068485595X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684855950
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There's a lot in this little book. Christmas is a time of celebration. It is a time of giving. We must steal it back and "selfishly" give. Mr. McKibben just asks one thing. Try to only spend approximately $100 on gifts. There is nothing "cheap" about this. It's a simple monetary limit on tension, selfishness & joylessness. It proposes that we give of our most valuable commodity--time. Make things, take kids to a museum or on a nature walk and give that extra cash you have to charity or church as a gift. Food and time are two of the greatest and most appreciated gifts. A great quote: "Market capitalism, if it is as rational as its proponents always insist, cannot actually depend for its strength on the absurdly lavish celebration of the birth of a man who told us to give away everything that we have." How true. Thanks Bill. You speak for many who want a true Christmas of family love, joyfulness and spirit back.
p.s. He doesn't step on any toes--shop locally for presents if they are to be purchased he suggests. It keeps the local economy healthy and supports friends and family businesses that depend on Christmas for their income. Especially small bookstores where they know your face and maybe your name. Go pick up a copy now and make contact with a living human being. A true Christmas takes time--not money.
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Format: Hardcover
Gift-giving is a good thing, but our gifts can be less about monetary value and more about reaching out to one another. The idea is to give more of our time and care and less of extra stuff that most of us don't need. I gave the book four stars instead of five because it is too short! I would have liked to read more about alternative ideas for celebrating and making gifts. The description of how Christmas has evolved, while pertinent, was my least favorite part of the book. I truly enjoyed reading about how the author's family and friends celebrate Christmas with a minimum of materialism. This is a great book to start of the holidays by remembering what really matters.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a call to reconsider our Christmas traditions, where they came from, and what we want from them. The book is extremely short, and can be read in only an hour or two, but the ideas in it are profound. McKibben begins by describing some of the details of how the American commercialization of Christmas came about in the early 1800s. At that time, wassailing was getting a bit out of hand, so some upper-class New Yorkers decided to reinvent the holiday around some more wholesome traditions of family celebrations and gift giving. As part of this movement, in 1818 Clement Moore brought St. Nicholas into the picture complete with reindeer on the roof with his famous "Twas the Night before Christmas". From there, the idea of centering the holiday on gift-giving grew and grew, much to the delight of department store owners, who were eager to add their own contributions to the holiday pantheon (such as Rudolph, courtesy Montgomery Wards).

McKibben asks us "Are you having fun? Are you enjoying your family's holiday traditions?" Or do you find yourself stressed out with all the competitive shopping and endless wrapping? Do the holidays leave your credit cards maxed out? He reminds us that the tradition of massive gift-giving at Christmas time is only a very recent one in this country. If it's not fun, if it doesn't fill your life with wonder and holiday spirit, why continue with it all?

Instead, McKibben suggests examining your own family traditions. Stop and think- -do you even remember what gifts you received for Christmas last year, or the Christmas before that? On the other hand, what elements of the Christmas celebrations of years past stand out most clearly in your memory?
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By A Customer on November 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
i pray that this book is not overlooked in the mad holiday shopping rush. that's exactly what it struggles against. to read mckibben's plan for a more peaceful and joyful holiday is like taking a warm bath--suddenly it all seems manageable again. my family and i will try to implement a variation of his plan (hundred dollar chanuka). i especially like the practical ideas, the how-to tips he gives for pulling it off.
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Format: Hardcover
Bill McKibben is an environmental writer of other books such as Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change, The End of Nature, etc.

He wrote in the Introduction to this 1998 book that when he and some other people at his church began the Hundred Dollar Holiday program, they were labeled "dour do-gooders... bent on taking the joy out of Christmas. And, frankly, their charges sounded plausible enough. After all, we were asking our families, our friends, and our church brethren to try and limit the amount of money they spend on the holiday to a hundred dollars---to celebrate the holiday with a seventh or an eighth of the normal American materialism." (Pg. 9-10) But he adds, "the more we progressed on our little campaign... we came to understand why people were responding. It wasn't because we wanted a simpler Christmas at all. It was because we wanted a more joyous Christmas. We were feeling cheated---as if the season didn't bring with it the happiness we wanted." (Pg. 12)

He admits wryly, "There's nothing magic about a hundred dollars; truth be told, I chose the name because it sounded good with 'holiday.' And obviously bigger families may decide to spend more at Christmas, and small ones may be happier spending less.
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