|: G. Q. Bowler
|: Oxford University Press
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Christmas, a global phenomenon adored by billions and a backbone of international trade, is the biggest single event on the planet. For Christians it is the second-most sacred date on the calendar. But whether one celebrates it or not, it engages billions of people who are caught up in its commercialism, music, sentiment, travel, and frenetic busyness. Since its controversial invention in the Roman Empire, Christmas has struggled with paganism, popular culture, fierce Christian opposition to its celebration, its abolition in Scotland and New England, and its neglect and near-death experience in the 1700s, only to be miraculously reinvented in the 1800s. The twentieth century saw it opposed by Bolsheviks, twisted by Hitler, and appropriated by every special interest group in the industrialized world. Lately it has been caught up in the cultural struggles between the left and the right in America, often misinterpreted as a war on Christmas, when the fight is really over whether religion in general will be allowed a public face. Gerry Bowler tells the fascinating story of the tug-of-war over Christmas, replete with cross-dressing priests, ranting Puritans, atheist witches, the League of the Militant Godless, aesthetic terrorists in Quebec and rap-singing Santa killers in Spain.