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Illuminations, class identities and the contested landscapes of Christmas

Edensor, Timothy J. and Millington, Steve (2009) Illuminations, class identities and the contested landscapes of Christmas. Sociology, 43 (1). pp. 103-121. ISSN 0038-0385

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In the last two decades, illuminating the outside of a house with multi-coloured lights has become a popular British Christmas practice, typically adopted within working-class neighbourhoods and thus producing a particular geography of illumination. This article explores how such displays have become a site for class conflict mobilized around contesting ideas about space, time, community, aesthetics and festivity, highlighting how the symbolic economy of class conflict moves across popular culture. We focus upon two contrasting class-making practices evoking conflicting cultural values. First, we examine the themes prevalent in negative media representations of Christmas lights, notably the expression of disgust which foregrounds the working-class stereotype, the ‘chav’. Second, we analyse the motivations of displayers, exploring how the illuminations are imbued with idealistic notions about conviviality and generosity.

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