Cover image for The folklore of American holidays : a compilation of more than 600 beliefs, legends, superstitions, proverbs, riddles, poems, songs, dances, games, plays, pageants, fairs, foods, and processions associated with over 140 American calendar customs and festivals
The folklore of American holidays : a compilation of more than 600 beliefs, legends, superstitions, proverbs, riddles, poems, songs, dances, games, plays, pageants, fairs, foods, and processions associated with over 140 American calendar customs and festivals
Cohen, Hennig.
Third edition.
Publication Information:
Detroit : GALE, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxxiii, 573 pages ; 29 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT4803 .F65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ
GT4803 .F65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material

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Covering more than 125 American holidays, including well-known religious and secular holidays, this reference is chronologically arranged from New Year's Day to Christmas. Entries include a description of origins, historical background and general characteristics.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Anyone expecting substantial overlap in these titles is in for a great surprise! The orientation of the two sets of authors, and their intended audiences, is quite different. The Schauns' effort is essentially a textbook for use at the intermediate-school level, briefly outlining the historical underpinnings of major nationally celebrated occasions (along with some state and lesser-known ``special days''), focusing particularly on patriotic events (e.g., Halifax Resolves, Bunker Hill Day). American Holidays and Special Days reflects the Schauns' interest in American history. Dates in Maryland's history receive special tribute here, plus a number of holidays unique to the South, e.g., Confederate Memorial Day, Mecklenburg Day. All holidays of national interest are described, along with many of more limited interest, e.g., Eliza Doolittle Day. Birthdays of famous Americans and great battles receive the fullest treatment, often including an eclectic collection of historical details. The only religious festivals included are Christian, with the exception of Hanukkah. Holidays honoring ethnic groups receive scant attention: one page for Black History Month; a brief, inadequate biographical statement on Martin Luther King, Jr.; but a sensitive, three-page tribute to native Americans on their day. Little is said about how various holidays are celebrated. Holidays are listed in chronological order, starting with January 1. Special material includes a list of dates of admission to the union for all 50 states; essays dealing with ``Movable Days,'' the complexities of various calendars, and how the days and months got their names; and a selected bibliography and an index. Each holiday has an appropriate illustration, sometimes a photograph but most often a striking silhouette of people or scenes. Schools and public libraries needing such a historical overview for younger readers should find this a useful tool. Folklore collectors Cohen and Coffin (editors of Folklore in America, 1966 and The Parade of Heroes, 1978, both Doubleday/Anchor, among other titles) concentrate on the ``lore and legend'' associated with a wide variety of festivals. As they note, ``some holidays have arisen from ancient practices, others are fresh attempts to celebrate neglected festivals or, in some cases, the results of political or ethnic groups wishing to strengthen their sense of identity.'' Criteria used in deciding upon a holiday's merits for inclusion were ``Would this festival continue to be celebrated if there were no legal or commercial reason to celebrate it? Is the event creating, or has it in the past created, its own set of traditions, with associated legends, anecdotes, superstitions, foods, and the like?'' If the answer to one or both questions was yes, the holiday was included. The collection reflects the richness of America's diverse and evolving cultures. Endeavoring to capture the spirit of more than 100 American festivals, the editors furnish a brief historical background statement for each, and then offer, according to the subtitle, ``more than 400 beliefs, legends, superstitions, proverbs, riddles, poems, songs, dances, games, plays, pageants, fairs, foods, and processions'' associated with them. Cohen and Coffin eschew many nationally proclaimed events (e.g., presidential birthdays) in favor of ``calendar customs and festivals'' that have become part of our heritage, especially those of particular regions or ethnic groups (Powam Festival, Juneteenth, Chinese New Year). Traditional lore about the ways in which such occasions are celebrated forms the essential part of the volume. Of particular interest to adult students of ethnicity and folklore, this lively compendium also will intrigue general readers. The introduction provides lucid discussions of the necessary evolution of formal calendars and their problems, pagan and climatic influences on Christian holidays, the amazing durability of folk festivals, and the ethnic roots of many fe

Library Journal Review

Here is a unique addition to reference books on holidays. While the American Book of Days (Wilson, 1978. 3d ed.) reads like an encyclopedia and Anniversaries and Holidays (ALA, 1983. 4th ed.) gives brief notes on over 2600 entries, this book presents a wide variety of data on roughly 125 holidays. They represent a diverse array of customs from all segments of America. What makes this compilation unique is that it includes recipes, folksongs, tales and proverbs, and other kinds of information that would be difficult to locate otherwise. Documentation is provided for every bit of information. Widely celebrated holidays receive more extensive treatment, but it is still surprising to see so much care given to such a variety of customs. Recommended especially for public libraries. David S. Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The folklore of American ``calendar customs and festivals'' is the emphasis of this intriguing work. In addition to major holidays, less well known occasions such as ``Shad Planking,'' ``Turtle Days,'' and ``Hurricane Supplication Days'' are included. Each of the more than 100 entries consists of a brief description and history of the holiday or festival, followed by one or more accounts of practices associated with that holiday or festival. Each of these ``Items of Folklore'' within the main entry is accompanied by a useful ``Source'' or ``Source and Comment'' note. Arrangement is chronological, with further access provided by five separate indexes: ``Subject,'' ``Ethnic and Geographic,'' ``Collectors, Informants and Translators,'' ``Song Titles and First Significant Lines,'' and ``Motif and Tale Types.'' Although this is a well-done reference work, most libraries needing basic information on the history and practices associated with American holidays will be better served by Jane M. Hatch's more comprehensive The American Book of Days (3rd ed., CH, Jul '79). Nevertheless, The Folklore of American Holidays provides specific examples of holiday folklore which are difficult to find elsewhere, and libraries with strong collecting interests in folklore will therefore find it a worthwhile addition.-R. Nash, University of Nebraska at Omaha