The Production Mechanism of Popular Culture——The Origin of Christmas

  In today’s society, if there is a culture that occupies most of people’s daily life, this culture is none other than mass culture. Historically, popular culture has shown the following characteristics in the development process, such as originating from the bottom society, conflicting and integrating with the values ​​of the middle class, the process of entering commercialization, and the manifestation of values. We can generally describe the production mechanism of popular culture as the following five aspects: 1. Willing expression and behavioral resistance originating from the bottom society; 2. Tension reflected in confrontation and convergence with mainstream society; 3. Entering industrialization and The process of commercialization; 4. Become a symbol and expression of values; 5. Promote the progress of social change. It should be pointed out that these five aspects have a sequential process, but at the same time, all aspects will also work together to form the popular phenomenon of culture. In other words, at the beginning of the phenomenon, the following processes have actually infiltrated at the same time. Whether it is confrontation and convergence with mainstream society or before and after entering industrial production, the factors of values ​​have been playing the role of adjustment, synthesis, change and integration. , until they converge into a stream and become a part of public life.
  In order to better illustrate the role of these five aspects in the production mechanism of popular culture, it is necessary to give specific examples. At the same time, it should be pointed out that in the process of example, a certain aspect will be highlighted, but in fact, in any example, the mechanism factors of the five aspects exist at the same time and play a role at the same time, but due to different historical conditions , the effect of each factor will be different.

  We can start with examples that can reflect these aspects at multiple levels (mainly American popular culture as an example below). The formative process of Christmas is a good example in this regard. Christmas is a social custom in many countries in the world. It has rich cultural connotations and is also an important consumption season in modern society. Naturally, it is also a popular cultural phenomenon involving daily life. In any way, Christmas, as it is now familiar to everyone, is a mixture of many factors, including religious beliefs, family reunion, entertainment, shopping, and more importantly, it is a symbol of Western culture and has far-reaching influence. far beyond the reach of the West. In recent years, Christmas has become a popular holiday in China, at least in the eyes of many businesses.
  If we do some historical research on the formation process of Christmas, we will find that it contains many aspects of the above-mentioned mass cultural production mechanism.

  December 25 is set as Jesus’ birth day, but identifying this date does not mean that the church is convinced that Jesus was born on this day. In fact, no one knows exactly when Jesus was born. The date is set only because December 25th is the winter solstice of the year. Medieval folk custom celebrates the autumn harvest and welcomes winter at this time. Now we often say that the carnival in the West is also related to this folk custom. As far as the church is concerned, setting the date of Jesus’ birth at this time, on the one hand, can conform to folk customs, and on the other hand, it can also use this occasion to transform non-Christian customs, or customs known as paganism. But the reality is that the content of the carnival is far greater than the original intention of commemorating the birth of Jesus. For a long time, the so-called Christmas is full of “playful, vulgar and even brutal” behavior. After the Reformation in the 16th century, some Protestants even regarded Christmas as a bad custom of “foolishness and deceit” left over from Catholicism. In 1644, the British Parliament condemned the activities of Christmas, and denounced the “freedom of the flesh and senses”. Similarly, the British colony of Plymouth on the North American continent prohibited people from working and entertaining on Christmas day, unless it happened to be a Sunday. However, after entering the 19th century, this situation began to change. Some elites in the middle and upper classes found that the vulgarity and rude behavior of the masses at Christmas was incompatible with their decent life, and even threatened the stability of the whole society. Some of them started talking about the meaning of Christmas in terms of promoting family warmth. A leading figure in early American literature, Washington Irving, published in 1819 and later included his description of the ideal Christmas in the now-famous “Notes of Observation” in both the United Kingdom and the United States, nostalgically advocating “the peace of the family”. Embrace” Christmas celebrations to resist the current form of festivals that have become “vulgar and shallow”. John Pintard, another man who lived in the upper middle class and aristocratic life with Owen in New York and held a conservative position, felt the impact of the Christmas carnival and the anxiety caused by it more than Owen. Drunkenness has reached a terrifying state.” Of course, his words are not just referring to a specific event, but also to something like Christmas that tends to happen. From this he formed an idea to change the folk customs by changing the way of celebrating Christmas, or even creating another festival. Some of the ideas Irving expresses in the article are in tune with his ideas. As a result, Pintard tried his best to launch the feast of St. Nicholas, a saint worshipped by Christianity in the Middle Ages. Pintard portrays St. Nicholas as an old man who loves children, On the evening of St. Nicholas the saint is with the children and brings them gifts. Since then, Irving has also portrayed St. Nicholas as the predecessor of New York in a book describing the history of New York – the guardian of New Amsterdam under the Dutch rule, a kind old man who gave gifts to children. Pintard set the festival of St. Nicholas at the beginning of December. This festival was not paid attention to by many people, but the image of St. Nicholas began to be welcomed by many people. An anonymous poem titled “St. Nicholas Has Come” appeared in 1823, describing St. Nicholas coming into the house on a snowy night and packing gifts into the socks that the children hung by the windows. The poem spread like wildfire and spread widely, becoming one of the important sources of the image of Santa Claus that has become widely known since then. A decade later, a college professor, Clement Moore, admitted that he wrote the poem. Like Pintard, Moore was a political conservative, disliked, even fearful, of the popular carnival. A prominent feature of the image of St. Nicholas is to render the family atmosphere, family reunion, children look forward to gifts, but to get gifts, you must first be a good child. So the idea of ​​home education with a strong moral element is combined with the gift, and the arrival of Santa Claus vividly expresses this idea through the mysterious but friendly behavior of the people. In 1842, the British writer Dickens published the novella “A Christmas Carol”, in which a poor family got a turkey sent by a capitalist who had found his conscience and transformed himself at Christmas. The multiple atmosphere of family affection, kindness and friendship has also undergone a transformation, and the concept of family has been concentrated. Dickens’ novels were a great success and received unprecedented popularity. Before the novel was published, he had visited the United States, and naturally he regarded American readers as one of the readers of the novel. Poems are written by him. Like Pintard, Moore was a political conservative, disliked, even fearful, of the popular carnival. A prominent feature of the image of St. Nicholas is to render the family atmosphere, family reunion, children look forward to gifts, but to get gifts, you must first be a good child. So the idea of ​​home education with a strong moral element is combined with the gift, and the arrival of Santa Claus vividly expresses this idea through the mysterious but friendly behavior of the people. In 1842, the British writer Dickens published the novella “A Christmas Carol”, in which a poor family got a turkey sent by a capitalist who had found his conscience and transformed himself at Christmas. The multiple atmosphere of family affection, kindness and friendship has also undergone a transformation, and the concept of family has been concentrated. Dickens’ novels were a great success and received unprecedented popularity. Before the novel was published, he had visited the United States, and naturally he regarded American readers as one of the readers of the novel. Poems are written by him. Like Pintard, Moore was a political conservative, disliked, even fearful, of the popular carnival. A prominent feature of the image of St. Nicholas is to render the family atmosphere, family reunion, children look forward to gifts, but to get gifts, you must first be a good child. So the idea of ​​home education with a strong moral element is combined with the gift, and the arrival of Santa Claus vividly expresses this idea through the mysterious but friendly behavior of the people. In 1842, the British writer Dickens published the novella “A Christmas Carol”, in which a poor family got a turkey sent by a capitalist who had found his conscience and transformed himself at Christmas. The multiple atmosphere of family affection, kindness and friendship has also undergone a transformation, and the concept of family has been concentrated. Dickens’ novels were a great success and received unprecedented popularity. Before the novel was published, he had visited the United States, and naturally he regarded American readers as one of the readers of the novel.
  After that, in the United States in the mid-19th century, Christmas began to become a festival with family reunion, highlighting the concept of family and educating children to be good people. Naturally, the original religious origins are also perfectly integrated with this content. And this is precisely what the middle-class family morality, which was on the rise at the time, needed. Despite the poverty, Bob Cratchit, the owner of a poor family described in Dickens’ novel, behaves civilly, politely, optimistically, and works hard. He’s not middle-class, but he embodies the kind of character that a middle-class headed by a business owner or a family with property needs. In this regard, Christmas, which emphasizes the concept of family, has come together with the needs of the middle class. Similarly, the important content of Christmas celebrations – the exchange of gifts is also crowned with the name of conveying family affection and human friendship. It is also in this regard that the commercial society on which the middle class depends has found profitable opportunities. Merchants use the concept of family to promote products before Christmas, which has also become a legitimate act of Christmas. Business profits and family harmony, religious origins and worldly joys, unknowingly merge with each other in the process. In 1870, the U.S. Congress declared Christmas a national holiday, which seemed to highlight American values ​​from a religious point of view, while also emphasizing family values ​​from a national level. The significance of Christmas has thus been strengthened, but at the same time, the commercial atmosphere of the holiday has intensified.

  From the above brief description of the origin of Christmas, we can see several important aspects in the formation of popular culture. First of all, it is the origin from the bottom of society. Most of the participants in the original carnival behavior at Christmas are related to the general public and come from the bottom of the society. This can also be confirmed from the disgust of some middle and upper-class people towards the former and the resulting anxiety; followed by the latter taking actions to intervene , the essence of its action is to incorporate Christmas into their values; moreover, the atmosphere of the commercial society allows businesses to seize the opportunity, and in the name of morality, put Christmas on the track of business action; finally, the country Comprehensive endorsement of the entire process at the level. As a result, Christmas has become a social phenomenon with distinct characteristics of mass culture.
  American popular culture researcher Ashby summed up the function of popular culture in this way: “Popular culture reflects on the one hand, and shapes many aspects of society on the other… It is both a reflection and a mirror, and it expresses society with various images and meanings. “. Indeed, the history of Christmas in America illustrates the process of reflection and shaping and meaning formation.