Why are ‘chavvy’ external illuminated Christmas displays embraced by the working class?

Illuminations, class identities and the contested landscapes of Christmas

From Sociology

In the last two decades, illuminating the outside of a house with multi-colored lights has become a popular British Christmas practice. Whereas in the US these illuminations typically cover large middle-class homes, in Britain they have been largely adopted within working-class neighborhoods.  This article investigates how and why such displays have developed class associations.  It considers the negative media representations of displays and the working-class stereotype.  Analysing the motivations of displayers, and  exploring how the illuminations are imbued with idealistic notions about conviviality and generosity, this study emphasises conflicting cultural values.

Abstract

In the last two decades, illuminating the outside of a house with multi-colored lights has become a popular British Christmas practice, typically adopted within working-class neighborhoods 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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Article details

Edensor, T., & Millington, S. (2009). Illuminations, Class Identities and the Contested Landscapes of Christmas Sociology, 43 (1), 103-121 DOI: 10.1177/0038038508099100

     
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