New in paperback. Hardcover was published in 1995. Captures both the blessings and ballyhoo of American holiday observances from the mid-eighteenth century through the twentieth.
Slogans such as "Let's put Christ back into Christmas" or "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" hold an appeal to Christians who oppose the commercializing of events they hold sacred. However, through a close look at the rise of holidays in the United States, Leigh Schmidt show us that commercial appropriations of these occasions were as religious in form as they were secular. The rituals of America's holiday bazaar that emerged in the nineteenth century offered a luxuriant merger of the holy and the profane--a heady blend of fashion and faith, merchandising and gift-giving, profits and sentiments, all celebrations of a devout consumption. In this richly illustrated book, which captures both the blessings and ballyhoo of American holiday observances for the mid-eighteenth century through the twentieth, the author offers a reassessment of the "consumer rites" that various social critics have long decried for their spiritual emptiness and banal sentimentality. Schmidt tells the story of how holiday celebrations were almost banished by Puritans and other religious reformers in the colonies but went on to be romanticized and reinvented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.Merchants and advertisers were crucial for the reimagining of the holidays, promoting them in a grand, carnivalesque manner, which could include gargantuan fruit cakes, masked Santa Clauses, and exploding valentines. Along the way Schmidt uses everything from diaries to manuals on church decoration and window display to show in bright detail the ways in which people have prepared for and celebrated specific holidays--such as going Christmas shopping, making love tokens, choosing Easter bonnets, sending flowers to Mom, buying ties for Dad. He demonstrates in particular how women took the lead as holiday consumers, shaping warm-hearted celebrations of home and family through their intricate engagement with the marketplace. Bringing together the history of business, religion, and gender, this book offers a fascinating cultural history of an endlessly debated marvel--the commercialization of the American holidays.
List of IllustrationsIntroduction3Ch. 1Time Is Money17Church Festivals and Commercial Fairs: The Peddling of Festivity19"Enterprise Holds Carnival, While Poetry Keeps Lent": From Sabbatarian Discipline to Romantic Longing23A Commercial Revolution: National Holidays and the Consumer Culture32Ch. 2St. Valentine's Day Greeting38St. Valentine's Pilgrimage from Christian Martyr to Patron of Love40The Handmade and the Ready-Made: Of Puzzle Purses, Chapbooks, and the Valentine Vogue47Remaking the Holiday's Rituals: The Marketing of Valentines, 1840-186063Mock Valentines: A Private Charivari77"A Meaner Sort of Merchandize" or "A Pleasure without Alloy"? The New Fashion Contested and Celebrated85Expanding Holiday Trade: From Confectioners' Hearts to Hallmark Cards94Ch. 3Christmas Bazaar105The Rites of the New Year: Revels, Gifts, Resolutions, and Watch Nights108The Birth of the Christmas Market, 1820-1900122Shopping towards Bethlehem: Women and the Victorian Christmas148Christmas Cathedrals: Wanamaker's and the Consecration of the Marketplace159Magi, Miracles, and Macy's: Enchantment and Disenchantment in the Modern Celebration169Putting Christ in Christmas and Keeping Him There: The Piety of Protest175Ch. 4Easter Parade192"In the Beauty of the Lilies": The Art of Church Decoration and the Art of Window Display194Piety, Fashion, and a Spring Promenade210"A Bewildering Array of Plastic Forms": Easter Knickknacks and Novelties219Raining on the Easter Parade: Protest, Subversion, and Disquiet234Ch. 5Mother's Day Bouquet244Anna Jarvis and the Churches: Sources of a New Celebration246Commercial Floriculture and the Moral Economy of Flowers: The Marketing of Mother's Day256Pirates, Profiteers and Trespassers: Negotiating the Bounds of Church, Home, and Marketplace267The Invention of Father's Day: The Humbug of Modern Ritual275Epilogue: April Fools? Trade, Trickery, and Modern Celebration293Acknowledgments305Notes311Index359