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Christmas in the Multicultural City: Public and Private Rituals between Culture, Religion and Consumption

Christmas in the Multicultural City: Public and Private Rituals between Culture, Religion and Consumption

A workshop of the Religion and Public Memory in Multicultural Societies Project

Christmas is a not a holiday just for Christians anymore, if it ever was. Embedded in calendars around the world and long a lucrative merchandising opportunity, the festive season of Christmas enters multicultural, multi-religious public spaces through decorative displays, ritual activities and collective gatherings. The presence of Christmas in the public sphere also affects what goes on in private homes: many non-Christians get caught up in the celebration of Christmas, adapting and transforming it, adding new layers of meaning to it. In the process, Christmas becomes a contested political object, particularly when various social players begin to articulate their claims to Christmas: Is it a religious holiday, as the churches would have it – and should it therefore be ‘secularized’ in the public sphere, as the secularist view would have it? Or is it ‘cultural’ – as many different groups argue – and what does this claim entail? This workshop takes a comparative historical and ethnographic perspective on the affective and political significance of Christmas in the multicultural city.  Based on a workshop model with pre-circulated papers, the two-day gathering will include scholars working on diverse regions who have considered the ways that Christmas has served as a catalyst of conflict and compromise in the “secular” yet religiously diverse city.

10. – 12.12.2015  — Tübingen, Neue Aula, Kleiner Senat und Raum 236 
Chair: Prof. Dr. Monique Scheer, University of Tübingen, Ludwig Uhland Institute for Historical and Cultural Anthropology; Prof. Dr. Pamela Klassen, University of Toronto; supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

If you are interested in attending this workshop, please send an email


Thursday, 10 December


14:00 – 14:15


Official welcome (Pamela Klassen, Monique Scheer)


14:15 – 15:15

Pamela Klassen, University of Toronto // Monique Scheer, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen: 

Religion and Public Memory in Multicultural Societies


15:15 – 16:00

Isaac Weiner, Ohio State University: 

And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!’: Listening to Christmas in the Multicultural City”


COFFEE BREAK (30 minutes)


16:30 – 17:15 

Juliane Brauer, Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung Berlin: 

Christmas Songs and Christmas Feelings – Music, Emotion and Remembrance 


17:15 – 18:00

Andreas Bandak, University of Copenhagen: 

The Nativity Crib and the Scenery of Good Tidings; or on Celebrating Christmas Damascus’ Style





Friday, 11 December


9:00 – 9:45 


Yaniv Feller, Jüdisches Museum Berlin: 

“O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum”: The Role of a Christmas Tree in a Jewish Museum


9:45 – 10:30

Helen Mo, University of Toronto: 

The Christmas Crisis: Lessons from a Canadian Public School’s Seasonal Skirmish



COFFEE BREAK (30 minutes)


11:00 – 11:45

Christian Marchetti, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen:

German Volkskunde, Christmas and Southeastern Europe


11:45 – 12:30

Pamela Klassen, University of Toronto: 

‘The First White Christmas’: Settler Odes and Nisga’a Hospitality on the Nass River



LUNCH BREAK (1h 30 minutes)


14:00 – 14:45

Amy Fisher, University of Toronto: 

Sleeping Rough and Feeling Stuffed: A “Homeless” Christmas in Toronto


14:45 – 15:30

Sophie Reimers, Viadrina University, Frankfurt/Oder: 

“What Exactly Do You Celebrate on Christmas?”: Different Perceptions of Christmas Among German-Turkish Families in Berlin


COFFEE BREAK (30 minutes)


16:00 – 16:45

Simon Coleman, University of Toronto: 

The Walsingham Cathedral


16:45 – 17:30 

Katja Rakow, Utrecht University: 

Christmas on Orchard Road in Singapore: Celebrating the Gift of Jesus Christ among Gucci and Tiffany’s stores


17:30 – 18:00





Saturday, 12 December