Christmas Eve Descriptive Essay

Christmas In Social Science Inquiry The most thorough examination of the role of Christmas in American life was undertaken by Barnett (1954).By interpreting a diversified collection of documentary evidence, Barnett traced changes in the meaning of the American Christmas festival from early Colonial days to the middle of the Twentieth Century.Men gave most of the appliances and sports equipment.

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There were formal religious aspects to this cult, but "Christmas is also nourished by the ties of family life, by affection for children, by a willingness to aid the needy, and even by the profitseeking activities of modem business.

The main rites of the cult are found in the midnight Mass of December 24th, the church service on Christmas Sunday, the family tree and dinner, Christmas shopping, gift giving, charity, Santa Claus' visit and the Christmas card custom...

He observed that gift giving formed a significant part of the celebratory activity: the 110 respondents to a personal inter-view gave a total of 2,969 gifts and received 1,378 gifts, a mean of 27 gifts given and 13 received.

Women were more likely than men to give ornaments, craft objects, food, plants and flowers.

These activities are intended to banish anxiety, to enhance the present, and to secure the future (Barnett 1954, pp.

129- 130)." Despite the thoroughness of Barnett's inquiry and the insights it provided on the ritual aspects of Christmas, three decades of rapid social change have now passed since Barnett's data were gathered.[Middletown III was an interdisciplinary project led by Theodore Caplow (University of Virginia) and funded by the National Science Foundation.Conducted during the late 1970's, it replicated the well-known Middletown I and II studies undertaken by Robert and Helen Lynd during the 1920's and 1930's.] The earliest (Caplow and Williamson 1980) deals with the contrasting iconographics of Christmas and Easter. 224), "Christmas and Easter are each double festivals having separate secular and religious iconographics and separate religious and secular modes of celebration." Caplow and Williamson also discerned several similarities in consumption practices between the two festivals, as well.In his view, Christmas had come to reflect many deep currents of the American value system and national character.Barnett concludes that the American Christmas had acquired a seasonal cult status involving participation by the majority of the population.Each is associated with a vacation from normal labor; each requires gift exchange activities and the exchange of cards, and each involves family reunions culminating in a celebratory family meal.The Christmas festival is associated with a rich set of secular and sacred symbols: "Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, the holly wreath, mistletoe, and the poinsettia; snow and reindeer; hearths, chimneys and stockings; the yule log; egg nogs and hot toddies; ribbons and bows; tinsel and stars; roast turkey and roast goose; carols and caroling; the major color combination of red and green" compose the secular symbol set.Six recent social science studies may Provide more current insights on the meaning of Christmas and consumption.The first of these, "The Christmas Potlatch..." (Moschetti 1979), examined the asymmetries of Christmas gift giving between different 'classes' of consumers, for instance, the marked tendency of parents to give greater quantities of gifts to their children, than vice versa.Caplow also found that money gifts were common from employers to employees ...Small money gifts are conventionally given at Christmas to newsboys, postmen, delivery men and other persons of relatively low status... 386)", but no reverse instances were found, conforming to Moschetti's thesis of gift asymmetry and relative social empowerment.

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