In an age of secularization and the decline of ritual, Christmas has emerged as the most promising candidate for the first global festival, celebrated not only in the Christian West, but in many countries with either a minority or no Christian population. How is it that Christmas is not merelysurviving, but actually gaining in importance? This book provides the first comparative study of the Christmas phenomenon, based on direct observation of how the festival is actually celebrated in diverse social contexts. It begins with some general theories of Christmas, including the first full English translation of "Father ChristmasExecuted" by Claude L'evi-Strauss, and then focuses on two controversial issues. First, the relationship between Christmas and materialism is examined and interpreted in the United States, Japan, and Trinidad. The second theme is the debate over the place of the family in Christmas celebrations;this section ranges from discussion of quarrels and tensions sparked off by the festival to a study of a deliberately anti- (or non-) nuclear family Christmas, and examines evidence from Sweden, Britain, and the Inupiat of Alaska. Christmas is rapidly becoming the focus for a constellation of activities such as gift-giving, the marking of the seasons, and the celebration of extended family networks which otherwise would have seemed to be in sharp decline. This collection represents a fascinating and significant contributionto understanding how and why Christmas has developed into the global festival celebrated today.