Christmas invented and contested

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Ward, Alison
Christmas , Invented tradition , Hobsbawm, Eric , Christianity
This paper analyses the celebration of Christmas through the lens of Eric Hobsbawm’s theory of invented tradition, as well as how this process of invention can contribute to the discourse on contemporary Christmas issues. According to Hobsbawm’s theory, an invented tradition is a custom that purposely fabricates a sense of historical continuity and appears to be old-fashioned even when it is new. This paper argues that the holiday, which began as a rowdy carnival and transformed into a quiet domestic affair, was invented through a process that combined disparate elements from paganism, Christianity, and secular customs. The paper investigates both the initial celebration as well as its modern manifestation. Such an analysis demonstrates that Christmas has no true, standardized, or infallible form. The subsequent examination of the contemporary Christmas issues involving paganism, commercialism, secularism, and multiculturalism accordingly demonstrates that the holiday cannot be categorized as fully Christian or non-Christian, or religious or secular. For example, the renaming of Christmas trees as “holiday trees” suggests both the Christian nature of Christmas as well as the celebration’s secular capacity for inclusivity. Subsequently, this paper concludes that the hybridity of Christmas is necessary for negotiating expected and ostensibly clear boundaries within modern thinking and society.
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