New Old Fashioned Ways

Holidays and Popular Culture

  • Author(s): Santino, Jack
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 1996-12-11
  • Status: Active
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Every year, as each holiday rolls around, American popular culture is suddenly awash in images associated with that festivity. While Christmas has been the most obviously commercialized celebration, Halloween, Easter, the Fourth of July, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day are also reflected in the offerings of the mass media and consumer products industries. This book is the first in-depth investigation of the myriad ways in which traditional holidays are both manifested and exploited in a commercial, consumerist society.

Jack Santino’s analysis encompasses everything from movies to romance novels, from television shows to comic books.

One especially fascinating feature of this study is its examination of the packaged-foods industry and the manner in which soft drinks, beer, snack cakes, cookies, candy, and breakfast cereals are regularly repackaged to reflect particular holidays. In what becomes a central theme of the book, Santino shows how holidays give companies the opportunity to create an illusion of novelty for products that otherwise remain unchanged over time. For example, the holiday Chips Ahoy cookies or Halloween Oreos differ only in their appearance from the everyday products, but they assume a quality of uniqueness through their association with a special time of the year.

Throughout the book, Santino examines the logic by which commercial culture and holidays are linked. Halloween, for instance, with its traditional symbolism of death, evil, and monsters, has served as a theme for heavy metal music and slasher films. This, in turn, has led to some interesting transmutations as one text borrows from another in the wake of a commercial success. When John Carpenter’s pioneering 1978 slasher film Halloween became a box-office hit, it was perhaps inevitable that other holiday-based slasher films—New Year’s Evil, April Fool’s Day, and Silent Night, Deadly Night—would follow.

Copiously illustrated, New Old-Fashioned Ways is at once entertaining and informative—a treat for general readers as well as an important work for scholars in a variety of fields, including communications, folklore, anthropology, sociology, and business.

The Author: Jack Santino is professor of folklore and popular culture at Bowling Green State University and editor of the Journal of American Folklore. His previous books include Miles of Smiles, Years of Trouble; All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life; and Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life.