Dating customs 19th century

The Christmas that Americans celebrate today seems like a timeless weaving of custom and feeling beyond the reach of history.

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Communication and transportation revolutions made once isolated parts of the country acutely aware of each other. It also made them reconsider the notion of 'community' in larger terms, on a national scale, but modelled on the ideal of a family gathered at the hearth.Immigration vastly widened the ethnic and religious pluralism that had been a part of American settlement from its beginning. At this cross-roads of progress and nostalgia, Americans found in Christmas a holiday that ministered to their needs.Moral, political and economic tensions mounted among east, west and south, raising new questions about the nature of the Union itself. The many Christmases celebrated across the land began to resolve into a more singular and widely celebrated home holiday.This new 'revived Christmas of our time' afforded a retreat from the dizzying realities of contemporary life, but cast in contemporary terms.

Americans varied old themes and wove new symbols into the received fabric to create something definitively their own.

The 'American' holiday enveloped the often contradictory strains of commercialism and artisanship, as well as nostalgia and faith in progress, that defined late nineteenth-century culture.

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