Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care/ In the hope that Alabama secessionists soon would be there!

Here is a book on my "must read" list. Author Stephen Nissenbaum apparently makes the case that Christmas wasn't a big deal until well into the nineteenth century.

You know how I already knew that? Because the vote in Alabama for delegates to a convention considering secession from the United States took place on December 24th, 1860! (Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1976, pp. 491 & 496). Imagine expecting folks to go out and cast ballots on Christmas Eve. If they really cared much about Christmas and what it stands for--peace on earth, good will towards man--I think they would have put this off until after the Super Bowl.

I'm kidding, of course, I know the Super Bowl didn't start for another century after the Civil War. But for me there is a bit of an analogy there. If it seems preposterous today that there ever was a time in this country when Christmas was a minor occurrence, all of us who are old enough to have lived through every Super Bowl know that Super Sunday was essentially a triviality until the 1980s--and you can find people in their twenties amazed to hear that.

I was a senior in college in January of 1981, when my roommate's friend invited me to a Super Bowl party at his place. I was puzzled. A party centered around the National Football League's championship game? I'd never heard of such a thing. But I went to the gathering, drank lots of beer, and saw the Oakland Raiders beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV.

And so history moves ahead. There may come a day people are surprised to learn that Christmas once was as big as Super Sunday.

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