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The holiday season seems a good moment to explore the contradictory nature of Christmas as a holiday that has become nearly globally observed while at the same time still being considered deeply nationally entrenched in many countries. Take Germany, for example: Considered as the homeland of Weihnachtsstimmung (Christmas mood), Christmas trees and Christmas markets, few would doubt that there is something a like a really true deutsche Weihnacht. Across the Atlantic, Americans equally claim to have their American Christmas, which, by the way, is the only federal holiday in the United States with a religious connection. Yet, celebrating Christmas has also an inherent transcendental dimension that goes beyond national borders – no matter whether people observe it as a religious or secular holiday.

To better understand the contradictory global and national character of Christmas, it is useful to go back to the long 19th century in which the modern Christmas was re-invented in a series of developments. During this period, Christmas celebrations became increasingly linked to national sentiments but they were also shaped by a multitude of imagined cultural encounters and transfers between countries. Building on the abundant scholarly literature on the history of Christmas, this blog post aims to sketch some developments which had a lasting impact on modern Christmas as it is familiar to us today. In particular, it draws on the wonderfully detailed books of Joe Perry and Stephen Nissenbaum, as well as an article by Neil Amstrong (references see below).

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The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
December 2012
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