Documenting Jesus’ Birthday in America

Santa protects America's dreams

Santa praying over Jesus is the gist of most American’s sentiments of Christmas. Jesse Rieser decided to dive into the rabbit hole of American’s expressions of Christmas and what she unearthed was a society experiencing a deep identity crisis. Growing up in a secular household, Christmas felt like a confusing celebration to a young Rieser, so to further explore her mixed feelings she decided to look at how the many expressions of Christmas or X-mas.

Rieser explains the diversity of American’s expression of Christmas, “This is a Christmas where carved foam soldiers guard Santa in the parking lot of a church just before a holiday parade. This is a Christmas where thousands of Santas run in an annual fundraising race, a sea of red hats and performance apparel.

This is a Christmas where garages and homes are transformed into elaborate, festive wonderlands. This is a Christmas where Christian families re-enact the birth of Christ while at the same time, somewhere Santa plays pool in a bar. In short, a Christmas where more is more is more.”

After seeing a five-story, inflatable Santa that seemed to be the security guard of a Christmas tree lot, it donned on Rieser that this type of mania needed to be examined. She explains how it changed her role in the holiday, “ these photos, I become a Christmas insider, working to discover and reveal what holiday magic, or mania, compels so many to devote thousands of hours to hanging lights, to carving and painting figurines, to building miniature villages, to converting their homes, yards, garages and cars into monuments at the altar of merriness.”

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