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Christmas in the Crosshairs is a witty, eclectic collection that focuses on those who have harbored antagonism toward Christmas (e.g., pagans, Puritans, communists) and those who have reinvigorated it in new directions (e.g., Charles Dickens, Clement Moore, capitalists). Author Gerry Bowler covers battles waged over both its religious and secular elements. 336 pages, hardcover. Oxford University.
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2016
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A cherished global phenomenon, Christmas is the biggest single event on the planet. For Christians it is the second-most sacred date on the calendar, but it also 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, and fierce Christian opposition; faced abolition in Scotland and New England; and braved neglect and near-death in the 1700s, only to be miraculously reinvented in the 1800s. The twentieth century saw it banned by Bolsheviks and twisted by Nazis. Since then, special interest groups of every stripe have used the holiday's massive popularity to draw attention to their causes.
Christmas in the Crosshairs tells the story of the tug-of-war over Christmas, replete with cross-dressing priests, ranting Puritans, and atheist witches. In this eye-opening history of Christmas and its opponents from the beginning up to the present day, Bowler gives us a shocking, and richly entertaining, new look at the tradition we thought we knew so well.
Gerry Bowler is a Canadian historian specializing in the intersection of religion and popular culture. His Ph.D. is from King's College, London and he is the author of Europe in the Sixteenth Century, The World Encyclopedia of Christmas, and Santa Claus: A Biography.
"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
"St. Augustine. John Chrysostom. The Puritans. Washington Irving. African Americans. Fidel Castro. Anti-consumer advocates. Westboro Baptist Church. Fox News. They have all, at one time or another, been caught in the 'crosshairs' of debates over the celebration of Christmas. Gerry Bowler's latest book teaches us that the so-called 'wars on Christmas' have a long and fascinating history." --John Fea, Professor of American History, Messiah College
"Bowler takes a seemingly modern topic -- the vilification of Christmas -- and shows it to have a centuries-old history. His survey of the issue covers everything from the deadly serious to the absurd, and it will leave readers amazed at the holiday's ability to not only persist, but to thrive worldwide... enlightening and entertaining." --Kirkus Reviews
"This scholarly, informative, and entertaining work is a wonderful antidote for anyone sick of all of the fuss who wants to enjoy Christmas, or at least tolerate it with good humor." --Library Journal
"Christmas in the Crosshairs: Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World's Most Celebrated Holiday chronicles a mind-boggling array of conflicts stretching from the ancient world to today." --Christianity Today
"The refreshing takeaway of Christmas in the Crosshairs is that most contemporary agita about Christmas' supposed decline is misplaced. . . . [Bowler] is a lively guide." --Slate