It is as predictable as the sunrise or sunset. Early on Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, shoppers flock to the stores unleashing a month of consumerism unparalleled during any other time of year. Yet it was not always thus. How did Christmas become a consumer event, and what does that say about America today? Christmas Unwrapped, edited by Richard Horsley and James Tracy, offers a fascinating critique of the American Christmas from the perspectives of cultural studies, theology, and biblical studies. Their central argument is that Christmas with its attendant mythology (Christmas carols, It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street), icons (Santa Claus), and rituals (gift-giving, holiday concerts, Christmas shopping) has become a new religion in America, the religion of consumer capitalism. Looking at Christmas from a wide range of perspectives, some of the essays examine the social history of the American Christmas and show the ways in which it differs from the European celebration. Others explore the holiday in celluloid by examining "classic" Christmas movies. Additional essays focus on the infancy narratives in the Gospels, comparing the clash of cultures between early Christianity and the Hellenistic world and reexamining the stories in their Roman/Jewish political-economic-religious context. As the contributors to this lucid and accessible critique of American culture demonstrate Jesus is definitely not the reason for the season. Contributors include: Kathleen M. Sands (University of Massachusetts Boston); Paula Cooey (Macalester College); Richard Horsley (University of Massachusetts Boston); Max A. Myers (St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo, New York); Arthur P. Simonds (University of Massachusetts Boston); and Elizabeth Fleck (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign). Richard Horsley is Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and the Study of Religion at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the author of Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs. James Tracy is Headmaster of Boston University Academy.
"More than just 'putting christ back in Christmas, ' this book provides a clarion call for an authentic church to understand its identity and witness in the midst of a pagan culture." The Other Side, Nov. & Dec. 2002.