As the modern celebration of Christmas took shape across the nineteenth century, American writers gave it new meaning in the pages of countless books and magazines. Now, for the first time, this rich anthology brings together some of the most significant of those seasonal stories to retell a forgotten tale of Christmases past.
From the authors who helped define a national literary culture, to the popular sentimentalists who negotiated Christmas’s position at the center of family life, to the realists who looked to reshape American letters in the wake of the Civil War, and beyond: all varieties of American writers turned to Christmas as an inevitable and potent subject during this deeply formative period in the history of American literature. In Christmas Past, Thomas Ruys Smith brings together a diverse range of voices to showcase the many ways in which Christmas was imagined across the nineteenth century, offering images that echo down to the present. The introduction that frames the anthology provides a new literary history of Christmas, contextualizing the selections and making clear the links both between them and to the wider trajectory of American literature.