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Christmas in the Crosshairs: Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World's Most Celebrated Holiday

Gerry Bowler

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Oxford University Press
15 November 2016
General & world history; Social & cultural history; Religion & beliefs; Christian worship, rites & ceremonies; Cultural studies
An Anglican priest hands out brass knuckles to his congregation to guard his church from anti-Christmas fanatics. Fascists insist that the real Christmas is the Winter Solstice, while Communists stage atheist musicals outside of churches on Christmas Eve. Activists vandalize shops that set out holiday advertising in October and anti-consumerists sing parody carols in shopping malls. Is there such a thing as a War on Christmas? As Gerry Bowler demonstrates in this entertaining book, there is and always has been a War, or rather, several wars, on Christmas.

Christmas, a global phenomenon adored by billions and a backbone of international trade, is the biggest single event on the planet. For Christians it is the second-most sacred date on the calendar. But whether one celebrates it or not, it engages billions of people who are caught up in its commercialism, music, sentiment, travel, and frenetic busyness. Since its controversial invention in the Roman Empire, Christmas has struggled with paganism, popular culture, fierce Christian opposition to its celebration, its abolition in Scotland and New England, and its neglect and near-death experience in the 1700s, only to be miraculously reinvented in the 1800s. The twentieth century saw it opposed by Bolsheviks, twisted by Hitler, and appropriated by every special interest group in the industrialized world. Lately it has been caught up in the cultural struggles between the left and the right in America, often misinterpreted as a war on Christmas, when the fight is really over whether religion in general will be allowed a public face.

Gerry Bowler tells the fascinating story of the tug-of-war over Christmas, replete with cross-dressing priests, ranting Puritans, atheist witches, the League of the Militant Godless, aesthetic terrorists in Quebec and rap-singing Santa killers in Spain.
By:   Gerry Bowler
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 240mm,  Width: 166mm,  Spine: 27mm
Weight:   606g
ISBN:   9780190499006
ISBN 10:   0190499001
Pages:   312
Publication Date:   15 November 2016
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Acknowledgements Introduction Chapter I: The Inventors Chapter II: The Revivalists Chapter III: The Tyrants Chapter IV: The Godly and the Godless Chapter V: The Appropriators Chapter VI: The Discontented Chapter VII: The Privatizers A Brief Epilog Notes Index

Gerry Bowler is a Canadian historian whose research focus on the intersection of religion and popular culture, especially Christmas. He has taught at a number of universities in western Canada and spent 25 years with the University of Manitoba as a Professor of History.

Reviews for Christmas in the Crosshairs: Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World's Most Celebrated Holiday

Yes, Virginia, there is a war against Christmas, and it has been waged for hundreds of years, as Gerry Bowler demonstrates in this eye-opening, lively, meticulously researched history. Christmas haters include Hitler, Puritans and the Westboro Baptist Church, pushing draconian laws or composing vulgar anti-holiday ditties. Against them stand Charles Dickens, Clement Moore, and large dollops of good will and common sense. Bowler details the clashes down the centuries with verve and intelligence; this is a masterful achievement. --Philip Zaleski, co-author of The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams Of all the culture wars afflicting America, the so-called war on Christmas can seem like a lightweight addition - a fluffy media concoction more than a substantial religious protest. Christmas in the Crosshairs gives historical heft and global perspective to the millennia-long battles over the holiday. At every turn Bowler's vivid account delivers needed depth and nuance to the current frays over the festival. --Leigh Eric Schmidt, Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor, Washington University in St. Louis


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