Encyclopedia of American Holidays and National Days

by Len Travers


Did you know the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas? Or that trick or treating on Halloween began in the late 1930s? Every holiday has a history, and this book sets out to tell it.

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April 2006


Pages 638
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics American History/Culture
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    Hardcover: £147.00/160,00€/A$245.00

Did you know that the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas? That trick or treating on Halloween began in the late 1930s? That Kwanzaa was created in the mid-sixties by Ron Karenga, a radical Black Nationalist and Black Panther? That Anne Marie Jarvis, the force behind getting Mother's Day, proclaimed a national holiday, later repudiated the holiday for its crass commercialism and strove to undo her handiwork until the day she died? Every holiday has a history, and this set sets out to describe them all. A chronologically organized reference guide to the history of American celebratory days, past, present, and emergent, the books focuse on each holiday's cultural and political significance. It includes major, minor, and bygone holidays, both civic and religious. The work has a distinctive multi-cultural tone, with special emphasis on recent additions to the national holiday pantheon, such as Kwanzaa, Cinco de Mayo, Gay Pride and Passover, among others, in addition to the more traditional Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Veterans Day. New holidays, like The Superbowl and Mardi Gras, are included as well. Each entry tracks the changes in the celebration of the day, its origins, and its wider cultural significance.

Presented chronologically, a range of holidays are examined. Some were once widely observed but have faded over time, some are currently widely accepted and celebrated, and some are emerging and gaining in popularity. Covered holidays include:
Every entry is signed, and concludes with suggested further readings. Sidebars offer brief overviews of many holidays, such as Presidents' Day, whose history is relatively straightforward. The Introduction provides an overview of the history of holidays in America, their uses and controversies. Illustrations, a robust bibliography, and a comprehensive index complete the work.

Table of Contents

IntroductionMartin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday by Claybrooke CarsonHolidays for Heroes of the Lost Cause: Lee, Jackson, and Davis by Karen L. CoxSuper Bowl Sunday: An American Holiday? by Mark S. Dyreson and Peter HopsickerMardi Gras and Carnival by Samuel KinserSt. Patrick's Day by Mike Cronin and Daryl AdairPassover in America by Erika MeitnerEaster by Bruce T. MorrillVE and VJ Day by J. Stanley LemonsEarth Day by J. Brooks FlippenMay Day in Urban America by Donna T. Haevrty-StackeCinco de Mayo and 16th of September by Louis M. HolscherMother's Day by Kathleen W. JonesMemorial Day by Matthew DennisPowwow by William K. PowersGay Pride Day by Timothy Stewart-WinterIndependence Day by Matthew Dennis"Agitate, Educate, Organize:" Labor Day in America by Ellen M. LitwickiAmerican Indian Day by Nicolas G. RosenthalArbor Day by Shaul CohenColumbus Day: The Navigation of Uncharted Waters by Claudia L. BushmanHalloween by Jack SantinoPope's Day/Guy Fawkes' Day by Brendan McConvilleVeterans Day by G. Kurt PiehlerThanksgiving by James W. BakerHanukkah in America by Dianne AshtonForefathers Day by James W. BakerChristmas by Penne Restad Kwanzaa by Keith A. MayesSidebarsBibliography



"Edited by Travers, this helpful resource provides a readable overview of secular and religious holidays that have shaped American culture. Following an introductory overview, 30 international scholars discuss 36 holidays chronologically, from Martin Luther King Jr. Day to Kwanzaa. Included are holidays no longer observed by many Americans (Pope's Day/Guy Fawkes' Day) as well as more recently initiated holidays (Gay Pride Day). The length of the signed entries ranges from 32 pages for Independence Day and Christmas to three pages for Father's Day. An index and suggested further readings are included, along with illustrations and brief sidebars for some holidays. Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers."Choice

"When Congress passed the Monday Holidays Act in 1971 stipulating that three holidays would be celebrated at the beginning of the week rather than the established dates, critics charged our national heritage was being trivialized to accommodate three-day weekends. This two-volume work contains informative and often fascinating material on the origin and evolution of these and other significant U.S. holidays. Written by scholars in the fields of U.S. history, folklore, politics, and popular culture, the work also includes lively discussions on the growth of several non-official commemorations, religious rites, and historic events, e.g., Super Bowl Sunday, Gay Pride commemorations, Passover, Hanukkah, Easter, and slave emancipation days....Diligently researched and fun to browse, this work is an outstanding ready reference source for public and academic libraries. Highly recommended."Library Journal

"[T]his is a well-researched and interesting compilation that will be of interest for all age levels and groups."American Reference Books Annual

"This title will be of interest to students interested in learning about American holidays described as a polyglot of occasions religious and secular, family- and community-centered, serious and silly and about one of our newer holidays, Super Bowl Sunday. This event is noted because it was created by those who wish to sell consumer goods such as soft drinks and pretzels and media moguls who wished to sell television ads and has expanded to market cities vying for the privilege of hosting the game. At the beginning of each holiday, an inset box lists important dates and events concerning the day. A history of the holiday, ways it is celebrated, its political and social issues and names of important persons attached to the celebration are given....Sharing this information before a holiday is to be celebrated would be useful. A few black-and-white photographs and graphics illustrate the text."GALE Reference for Students

"This new guide to American holidays examines 35 types of celebrations that have enjoyed significant national popularity in American history....The scholarly essays include a brief chronology of the development of the holiday, numerous illustrations and suggestions for further research. The resulting guide should prove useful in school, public and academic library collections."Reference Reviews

"The prose is never dull and the book is an enjoyable canter through many aspects of US history. The Introduction gives a good sociological underpinning to the phenomenon of special days. A useful panel highlighting the important points prefaces each essay."Lawrence Looks at Books

"The history, development, and celebrations of religious, political, and secular holidays are highlighted. Those unique to the United States, as well as information on American ways of celebrating international holidays are included. Individual holidays or events are covered in 29 signed chapters that conclude with further-reading suggestions. ... Super Bowl Sunday, Gay Pride Day, Hanukkah in America, Powwow, and Emancipation and African American Slave Festivals are some of the events discussed. Information is well documented, authoritative, and readable, and the bibliography and About the Editors and the Contributors sections are a boon."School Library Journal

"This is a very entertaining title covering holidays and other observances, beginning with Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday and ending with New Year's Eve. Essays, most of them signed, cover the history and politics of establishing holidays, from Puritan opposition to almost everything, to what changed Memorial Day from a Southern to a national observance. Essays range in length from two or three to more than thirty pages, depending on the holiday. Some, like Thanksgiving, Arbor Day, and Kwanzaa, owe a lot to the passion of individuals. Others just grew. Most have changed over time due to the changing nature of the American populace and the intrusion of commerce. The essays on Easter, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are particularly interesting....[h]igh-school students and adults will find it useful whether researching a holiday or getting ideas for a holiday commemoration. Larger public libraries and undergraduate libraries will want to consider."Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin

"This two-volume reference is appropriate for middle school students and general readers, including those new to American culture. It describes the history and customs surrounding significant civic and religious holidays celebrated in the U.S., emphasizing depth of coverage over breadth (there's no claim to comprehensiveness). Coverage extends beyond officially recognized federal holidays to encompass festivities of the past as well as newer occasions (such as Super Bowl Sunday) that are approaching near-holiday status by popular acclaim. Each essay traces the holiday's origins, development, and maturation."Reference & Research Book News

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