Winter Wonderlands: Outdoor adventure and the reinvention of Christmas, 1870-1900

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Abstract

For many Americans, Christmas became inextricably linked to a celebration of the outdoor life in the latter decades of the nineteenth century. Earlier generations of genteel folk in New York had taken the festival indoors, setting a fashion for many of the customs recognised to this day, and shaping a celebration of family and piety, home and consumption. But Christmas did not stay indoors forever. Appealing to a growing, broad middle-class interest in outdoor sports during the Gilded Age of the 1870s-1890s, a proliferating range of magazines shaped new ideas about leisure and recreation, and in festive special issues, about Christmas too. Sitting by the fire in dark and chilly December, readers of magazines like Forest and Stream or Outing could find encouragement to enjoy an active, outdoor Christmas Day, to venture into the winter landscape on skate or sled perhaps, or equally to lose themselves in stories of sport and adventure that could take them on imagined escapes, to the icy forests and mountains of the North, to sunny Florida and California, or to faraway lands, overseas. In these ways outdoor-sports magazines brought to mind wonderlands of thrill and enchantment. In the process, they reimagined Christmas for the twentieth century and the age of individualism and play, leisure and consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-290
Number of pages19
JournalComparative American Studies
Volume20
Issue number3-4
Early online date21 Sep 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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