The Evolution of Christmas

Each year millions of people around the world celebrate Christmas in a myriad of ways. There’s no denying this holiday and its significance to so many people, and for us, this is one of many times a year where we make more of an effort to appreciate others and remember to be more open-hearted.

To celebrate the holidays this year, we’ve hand-picked special collection of stories and articles on Christmas from the Wiley Blackwell collection and elsewhere. Test your knowledge by taking our quiz, read about the history of the holiday, and explore how the phenomenon of Christmas has spread around the world in the most interesting ways.

Please enjoy, and whatever you may believe, happy holidays to you and yours!


Take Our Christmas Quiz!

Christmas Quiz


Fun Facts about Christmas

History of Christmas – History.com

Ten Ages of Christmas – BBC

How Christmas Went Commercial: A Brief History – Fast Company


Enjoy our special collection freely through January 31.

Evolution of Christmas

Christmas: A Candid History – by Bruce David Forbes

The Historian | Richard Chapman

“Arguing that Christmas has ever been a blend of beliefs, practices, and purposes, Forbes likens it to a snowball that collected and discarded items pell-mell as it rolled along.”

A Child’s Christmas in America: Santa Claus as Deity, Consumption as Religion

The Journal of American Culture | Russell W. Belk

“Although  various  treatments have attempted to trace the Santa Claus myth to  the  4th  century  Lycian  Bishop  of  Myra,  Saint Nicholas’, as well as to European mythical figures including the Dutch Sinterklaas, French Pere Noel, Swedish  Santa  Lucia  and  Jultomten,  Russian Babushka,  German  Christkindlein  and  Knecht Ruprecht, Spanish Three Kings, Italian Befana, and the  earlier  Roman  god  Saturn,  the  modern American  Santa Claus  bears  little resemblance  to any  of  these  older  myths  and  legends.”

The Strange Birth of Santa Claus: From Artemis the Goddess and Nicholas the Saint

The Journal of American Culture | Bruce Curtis

“Long ago and far away, so say the legends, there lived a Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, a bearded Father of the Catholic Church named Nicholas. This Patriarch  won  his  way  into the hearts of the people, recently converted from idolatry  to  Christianity, by destroying  the temple  of  Artemis, a many-breasted goddess of  the sea and of grain, a pagan Earth Mother who had a long and distinguished career as a midwife and protector of women.”

Leisure and Recreation

History | Douglas Reid

“Despite some serious resistance and much non-compliance with the Puritan regime, it seemed to late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth-century writers that Christmas observance and festivities had received a damaging blow: the talk was of decline and decay.”

Philosophy

Female Spirituality and the Infant Jesus in Late Medieval Dominican Convents

Gender & History | Ulinka Rublack

“Dominican Christmas  sermons,  however,  encouraged  their  audiences  to become ‘mother of Christ’ and to let their souls give spiritual birth to Christ.”

What’s in a(n Empty) Name?

Pacific Philosophical Quaterly | Fred Adams & Laura A. Dietrich

“The names ‘Santa’ and ‘Father Xmas’ share similar causal histories. They both come out of the same Western cultural tradition. They are both associated with the same lore – the same set of descriptions.”

Existential Scrooge: A Kierkegaardian Reading of A Christmas Carol

Literature Compass | Shale Preston

“A Christmas Carol is indeed historically important, so much so that it may have influenced or even inspired Søren Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety (1844).”

Chapter 19: Common Claus

Christmas—Philosophy For Everyone | Cindy Scheopner

“In a state with no racial or ethnic majority, religious views also demonstrate a variety uncommon on the mainland US. at a time when they seem most acute.”

Religion

The Circumstantial Evidence of the Virgin Birth

The Muslim World | Albertus Pieters

“To my mind, so far from the Virgin Birth being a byproduct of Christian imagination, or a thing that while true, was unnecessary and uninfluential in the origin of the Christian religion, it underlies the entire development.”

Are Angels Just a Matter of Faith?

The New Blackfriars | Dominic White OP

“I argue that a philosophically viable Catholic angelology would not only help many people within and outside the Church to make sense of their religious experience, but would offer a much richer conception of creation and God’s saving work.”

The Star of Christ in the Light of Astronomy

Zygon | Aaron Adair

“Although there were centuries of astrological speculation, this overview shows that naturalistic theories of the Star are a late innovation that began with apologetic attempts in the nineteenth century and not long after left the mainstream of biblical scholarship, leaving mostly astronomers to give credibility to this tale.”

Migration

 

The Christmas Cake: A Japanese Tradition of American Prosperity

The Journal of Popular Culture | Hideyo Konagaya

“For Japanese, Christmas continues to provide an arena to rehearse American values.”

 

Translation Acts: Afro-Peruvian Music in the United States

Journal of Popular Music Studies | Heidi Carolyn Feldman

“…the track “Panalivio” is based on the music of black Christmas. This Catholic festival, the legacy of slavery and Christianization, takes place in rural Chincha, Peru, a town mythologized during the revival as the cradle of black Peruvian music.”

 

New Ways to Write the History of Western Europe and the United States: The Concept of Intercultural Transfer

History Compass | Thomas Adam

“The trimming of Christmas evergreens emerged as part of the modern form of Christmas celebration among wealthy families in Germany during the Romantic period. From here it quickly spread across Europe and even to the New England states in the 1830s and 1840s.”

Literary Criticism

Herrick’s “Christmas Carol”: A New Poem, and Its Implications for Patronage

English Literary Renaissance | Tom Cain

“The religious and secular celebration of Christmas had been under increasing political thread in England and Wales since the Solemn League and Covenent was made with the Presbyterian Scots in September 1643.”

Milton’s On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity: The Virgilian and Biblical Matrices

Milton Quarterly | Donald Swanson & John Mulryan

“This wedding of the Virgilian and biblical matrices reminds us once again that  Milton  was  the  most learned poet of his time, even at the early age of twenty-one,  when he composed this astonishingly  precocious  poem.”

Creative Writing – Enjoy these original works of Christmas fiction from our journals

The Christmas morning Swim

Critical Quarterly | Robert Cremins

Christmas with Aunt Ama

Critical Quarterly | Yaba Badoe

The Kindness of Strangers

The Yale Review | Sheila Kohler

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What Would Universal Marriage Equality Mean for Culture?

640px-Eric_Stonestreet,_Jesse_Tyler_FergusonUntil recently, American culture has been relatively devoid of representations of the LGBTQ couple. In fact, one of the frequent observations made by critics of television programs and films particularly has been the tendency of those forms to depict lesbians and gays as singular figures isolated from continuing relationships or larger community. There are,
one supposes, a few notable (or infamous) exceptions if one wishes to press the issue: Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas had attained a certain celebrity status by the 1920s and 1930s, though their salon days were spent in Paris and not in America. Likewise, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were by all accounts a couple in the 1920s but their infamy as murderers hardly made them role models.  Lesbian and gay couples did exist, to be sure, among them Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who were together more than five decades before Martin’s death in 2008, and Jorn Kamgren and gay activist Harry Hay, who were together for nearly a dozen years, but they were not well-known.  And novelist Henry James popularized “Boston Marriages” — close romantic relationships between women – in 1886’s The Bostonians, though the sexual nature of these relationships was likely neither universal nor well-understood. Lesbian and gay couples were becoming more culturally visible by the 1970s, thanks in part to a series of efforts by gay couples to marry in Minnesota, Seattle, and Colorado, as well as to their appearance in works such as the play and television series Hot L Baltimore.  Even as LGBTQ characters began to emerge in television and film, on-screen couples remained relatively scarce until the new millennium, with press accounts of states’ legalizing, first, civil unions and domestic partnerships, and eventually marriages.  When the TV series Modern Family debuted in 2009, the gay couple Mitch and Cam soon became audience favorites. The current U.S. Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which seeks to overturn state bans on the conduct and recognition of same-sex marriages, has dramatically increased the visibility of LGBTQ couples. But would universal marriage equality also mean greater cultural visibility or would an end to the legal and political battles over marriage equality lead to normalization and a return to invisibility?

Bruce E. Drushel, Ph.D.
Guest Editor, Journal of American Culture
Associate Professor, Media, Journalism & Film, Miami University

We encourage you to share, comment, and engage with us in the comment section below! Please also check out our free special collection of scholarly articles and books in LGBT studies.

YouTube Beauty Guru Ingrid Nilsen Comes Out in Emotional Video

Ingrid NilsenIf you’ve been on Facebook, YouTube, or even Time.com in the last ten hours, you may have seen the headlines that Ingrid Nilsen, a YouTube beautician with a following of 3.3 million followers, announced this morning to all her followers that she is gay. In between bouts of emotion and personal philosophy, Ingrid describes the overwhelming need she felt to have this conversation with her followers. Her story, honesty, and personal connection come at a pivotal time in our cultural acceptance of the “coming out” story.

Many in the LGBT community have a story of a similar hardship coming out to friends, family, and loved ones. It is not unheard of for social media outlets to spread notes, reactions, and personal stories like this across a member base. Ingrid’s story is unique in that it had by 900,000 hits in eight hours. The story has been picked up by multiple media outlets this morning and has subsequently raised viewership to 2,037,797 when this piece was written. For comparison, her other YouTube videos are on average around 500,000+ page views, almost 4 times her average viewership for one post.

Is the amplified reach and share-ability of these social media proclamations garnering the necessary support of our culture for acceptance? What will the cultural impact be of news outlets like Time picking up this personal story? Does this place pressure on the LGBT community to “come out” on social platforms or capture that moment in some way?

We encourage you to share your thoughts and comments on this post below. If you’re interested on reading scholarly content, made free this month only to support the continuation of conversations surrounding the LGBT Community, read here.

New Online Conference: The Changing Face of War

Benjamin Gimmel, BenHur
Vietnamese refugee in a Malaysian camp (Image: Benjamin Gimmel)

Wiley-Blackwell is delighted to announce our next Exchanges Online Conference, entitled The Changing Face of War. Following on from the extraordinary success of our previous conference (Wellbeing: A Cure-All for the Social Sciences?), this exciting new conference again promises to set the benchmark for events within the social sciences and humanities communities.

As before, the conference is free to all, and will take place online over the course of one week. The conference will bring together academics from the disciplines of history, policy, philosophy, peace studies, religious studies, sociology, politics, cultural studies and more.

The conference will cover the following thought-provoking themes:

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Theory and Philosophy of War
Is war an inevitable feature of human society/progress?

War in Cultural Context
Is there a ‘Western Way of War’?

From Home Front to Front Line
What can military history specialists learn from social and cultural historians, and vice versa?

Evolution of Warfare
Are we witnessing ‘new’ kinds of war in the 21st century?

Peace Studies
Is all peace good peace?

The conference will include the following content:

  • Videocast keynote addresses from leading figures in the field
  • Scholarly articles with expert commentary
  • Publishing workshops
  • Live Q&A with presenters
  • A book and journal ‘reading room’, plus a generous delegates’ discount
  • Participate when it suits your schedule

A Ticklish Subject

In a recent interview for the Guardian, Slavoj Zizek rubbished a large part of his own oeuvre, declaring, “All the talk and the writing about politics, this is not where my heart is. No. I have been sidetracked. I really mean this.”

Zizek also admitted to not having watched James Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar when he wrote his interpretation of it: “I had not even seen the film, but I am a good Hegelian. If you have a good theory, forget about the reality.” Continue reading “A Ticklish Subject”