Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays

Leigh Eric Schmidt, Author Princeton University Press $60 (296p) ISBN 978-0-691-02980-1
In this scholarly account, Schmidt (Holy Fairs) traces how the union of commerce and religion in the celebration of U.S. holidays was established. Early Protestant reformers frowned on festive observances, and it was not until the mid-1800s that holidays became associated with feasting and gift-giving by the new culture of merchandising. Advertisers transformed the medieval celebration of St. Valentine's Day into a modern explosion of cards and candy. Commercialization of Christmas, New Year's Day and Easter soon followed. Schmidt limits his carefully researched study to Christian holidays and acknowledges that he is sympathetic to the mix of the sacred and the secular. Taking issue with critics who assail holidays as devoid of meaning, Schmidt argues that commercialization includes deeply felt religious elements and that modern celebrations were ritualized by women who welcomed an area of power in domestic life. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/1995
Release date: 09/01/1995
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