Upcoming Lecture: The Battle for Christmas
Join us for a very special presentation at the Freeport Community Library on Sunday, November 20th at 2:00pm by Professor Stephen Nissenbaum, author of The Battle for Christmas, a 1997 Pulitzer-prize nominated book. Tix: $5.00
Professor Nissenbaum states “Santa Claus everywhere! It may be almost inevitable to complain about the way Christmas is celebrated in our own time–hyper-commercial, materialistic, just plain exhausting! – and, to contrast it with the far simpler, purer holiday celebration of yesteryear. Inevitable, perhaps. But, as it happens, Americans have been lamenting the decline of Christmas for many generations. As long ago as the 1800s, it was common to decry the glut of second-rate goods cramming the shops at the holiday season, and to anguish over the difficulty of choosing appropriate Christmas presents for friends and family. In this talk, Stephen Nissenbaum will trace the beginnings of the modern consumer Christmas back to the early nineteenth century, back to the time that middle-class Americans were starting to focus great attention and affection on their children, and when family life was coming to be based on the consumption — rather than the production — of material goods. And it was Santa Claus himself who presided over this transformation.”
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 is Professor Emeritus in history from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 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.
Quotes about The Battle for Christmas:
“Fascinating.” –The New York Times Book Review. 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.
“Christmas . . . too often fails to wholly satisfy the spirit or the senses. How and why the yuletide came to this is the subject of historian Stephen Nissenbaum’s fascinating new study. “ –Newsweek