Backlist Bop: “All Around the Year,” by Jack Santino

santinoToday we venture into the vaults to shed light on a Nineties UIP release. All Around the Year surveys the American year to delve into how and why we celebrate the holidays we observe.

Jack Santino tackles the classics, and also the new classics that maybe weren’t around so much when you were a kid. The Laotian Rocket Festival? Santino knows. Super Bowl Sunday? Would any book of American holidays be complete without Super Bowl Sunday? No, and for good measure Santino even ties it into The Golden Bough. Groundhog’s Day, Laskiainen, and of course celebrating Easter with the Egg Tree all get their own fascinating analyses.

Santino also ventures afield to look at how communities may put their own twist on the ancient traditional festivities like Christmas. Las posadas, for instance:

Another example of performing from house to house at holiday time, this Mexican tradition is growing throughout the United States, especially in Southern California and the Southwest. For nine nights prior to Christmas, groups of friends and neighbors arrange among themselves to visit each other’s holes, carrying homemade candles that are also known as las posadas. The result is a candlelit procession through the city streets. The visits recreate the journey of Mary and Joseph as they searched for a place where Mary could give birth to the Baby Jesus, el Nino Jesus….

Recently, more public presentations of las posadas, open to community dwellers and tourists alike, have joined the home celebrations. For these, perhaps Mary will ride a real donkey, or a real goat might join in the procession. El Nino Jesus might be played by a real baby. In both cases, in the neighborhoods and at the larger events, the flow is from the procession, through the reenactment of the Nativity, to a fiesta. Children are very important in las posadas. Often they play the principal roles of Mary and Joseph. The fiesta is a party featuring holiday foods such as tamales, and children’s games.