Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

History

Supervisor

Vance, Jonathan

Abstract

“Tanks and Tinsel: The American Celebration of Christmas during World War II” is an examination of the American celebration of Christmas during World War II. As the first comprehensive investigation into the most well-known holiday in Western culture and its role in shaping Americans’ experience and understanding of the war, it contributes to historical scholarship in three ways. First, it continues the trend of blending analyses of society into military-focused narratives of the war, and it expands the scope of this by fusing the literature of War and Society with that of Holiday History. Second, it challenges traditional views of the home front by highlighting that Christmas helped to solidify the importance of consumption in the American psyche. Third, it offers an argument as to how American identity and patriotism were tied to these consumerist values and shows how American business leaders and the government used the traditions and rituals associated with Christmas to articulate what servicemen and citizens ought to be fighting for. The celebration of Christmas provided reminders of, and hopes for, times of stability and prosperity in the United States. The holiday’s cultural capital was harnessed to encourage wartime consent, privilege particular values, and structure how individuals and communities, both foreign and domestic, would view America and the war.

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