Saturday, December 20, 2008

Books on Christmas traditions: 5 best

At the Wall Street Journal Penne L. Restad, author of Christmas in America: A History, named five books that "display a gift for exploring Christmas traditions."

One title on her list:
Unwrapping Christmas
Edited by Daniel Miller
Oxford, 1993

"Unwrapping Christmas" considers the "extraordinary success" of Christmas as a global event. Daniel Miller opens this set of 10 essays with "A Theory of Christmas." Taking an anthropological viewpoint, the collection emphasizes the holiday's relation to the family and to materialism. The reader won't want to miss the reprint of Claude Lévi-Strauss's "Father Christmas Executed" from 1952 explaining why a French town failed in its attempted Santacide. Another stand-out is James Carrier's explication of gift-giving, from shopping right down to discarded ribbon and paper. Add discussions of Inupiat, Japanese and Trinidadian celebrations and the result is an entertaining but also insightful study of just how innovative the holiday can be and yet still remain, at its core, Christmas.
Read about another title on Restad's five best list.

--Marshal Zeringue