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Christmas USA    by Mary D. Lankford & Karen Dugan order for
Christmas USA
by Mary D. Lankford
Order:  USA  Can
Collins, 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Mary Lankford tells us in her Introduction that while 'You may think that celebrations of Christmas are the same across the United States' and there are many similarities, she also found 'cultural traditions rich with meaning'. She reminisces about her own childhood (and recent) Yuletide festivities in Texas, and presents a regional variety of approaches to the holiday. Karen Dugan's colorful illustrations emphasize the historical and regional contexts.

Learn about how cranberries grew into the holiday in the Northeast, and about Southeast pageants including sugarcane fires in Louisiana and Christmas on the River in Alabama. Read about the big business of Christmas trees in the Great Lakes region, the import of the caroling tradition to the Mountain States by immigrants from Cornwall, and taking elk sleigh rides in Wyoming. Did you know that German immigrants brought their customs of tree ornaments and holiday treats to the Plains States? Read about Christmas dances and ubiquitous las luminares (festival lights) in the pueblos of the Southwest, and about the 1900s popularity of model trains in the Pacific States, where 'the aroma of hot Mexican chocolate, spiced with cinnamon and vanilla, mingles with the scent of herbs at Christmastime.'

There's a section on Christmas at the White House. I learned that President Jefferson chose the goose for Christmas dinner, President Andrew Jackson's children played with cotton snowballs in the East Room, President Lincoln gave a turkey a Presidential pardon, President Benjamin Harrison dressed as Santa ... and much more. On to Christmas at the Post Office - the Pony Express, the first American Christmas card in the 1850s, and the heritage of Christmas stamps. Lanford suggests Fun Things to Do for the holidays (like learning a Christmas song in another language and keeping a Christmas Journal) and gives directions for all kinds of crafts, from a Festive Pomander to Cascarones, and Christmas Tree Decorations. Yummy recipes include Colonists' Scripture Cake and Bischochitos.

This informative Yuletide book ends with a Time Line of Toys and a Bibliography for further exploration. Read Christmas USA along with kids at home and school, and learn history and geography together, while exploring past and present U.S. holiday traditions.

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