Flights of Fancy, Leaps of Faith: Children's Myths in Contemporary America / Edition 1

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In Flights of Fancy, Leaps of Faith, Cindy Dell Clark went right to the believers - American children - to explore how children themselves give meaning to Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Through interviews and observation conducted in real-life settings from homes to shopping malls during the holidays, she asks whether believing in these figures is good or bad for children. Using their insights, she offers fresh, new interpretations about tooth loss as a rite of passage, about Christmas (including the role of the family and the Christmas tree), and about Easter customs (including the Easter egg hunt) in contemporary America. Clark challenges the notion that the figures are merely "imaginary." She demonstrates how children actively shape these traditions through their own creativity and beliefs. And because they require the child's faith in order to be experienced, they play an important and singular role in a child's psychological development. Through the mysteries and myths of Christmas and Easter, families balance the values of receiving and giving, of growth and sacrifice. Each aspect of the Santa myth, from his slide down a chimney to his big red suit, plays a part in a child's imagination. Through their offerings of milk and cookies and their letter writing, children bring their relationship to Santa into developing attitudes toward giving and receiving gifts. The Easter Bunny story, with its ritual egg hunt and baskets of brightly colored candy, is explored in terms of life and its possibility of growth. In these examples, Clark shows how children play an active role in constructing family rituals and cultural reality, since their willingness to make the stories their own helps to renew the traditions. This engaging look at our central symbols will hold great interest for parents, as well as for teachers, psychologists, and other professionals concerned with childhood culture. Complete with children's vivid testimonies and colorful illustrat
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Is it good or bad for children to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy? Clark, an ethnographer and an adjunct faculty member of DePaul University's marketing department, maintains that such make-believe helps children grow into adults capable of faith and of imaginal experiences-experiencing that which is not physically present-such as dreams, prayer and fantasy. She brings to this delightful study a light touch, a cross-cultural perspective and solid fieldwork including interviews with children and their parents as well as videotaped observations of children's visits with a shopping-mall Santa and Easter bunny. Clark ransacks folklore and popular culture to retrieve shed-tooth rituals, seasonal rites of passage and anthropomorphic rabbit figures from around the world. Interestingly, many of her young interviewees associated these mythic figures of childhood with God or the supernatural. (Apr.)
The author inquires of children what Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy mean to them in an effort to determine whether their belief in these figures is beneficial or harmful. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Flight toward Maturity
The Tooth Fairy
3. Christmas and Easter
Seasonal Rites of Passage with Modern Relevance
4. The Christmas Spirit
Santa Claus and Christmas
5. Journey down the Bunny Trail
Easter Bunny and Easter
6. Commerce, Family, and Meaning
Institutions in Children's Ritual
7. Flights of Fancy, Leaps of Faith
Issues of Consequence
Child Anthropology
A Methodological Discussion
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