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The book originated in a theoretical critique of the androcentric bias in leisure theory. The notion of ‘family leisure’ is particularly problematic as it suggests that all family members enjoy leisure together. An alternative suggestion is that ‘family leisure’ is in reality ‘women’s work’. The empirical study focuses on family celebrations of Christmas, using informal discussions with women and interviews with women in Alberta, Canada. From observations of other women it was seen that in spite of the fact that all forms of unhappiness are magnified at Christmas, women feel compelled to struggle to produce and reproduce a successful festive season. The phrase ‘the Christmas imperative’ is used to capture this compulsion to reproduce Christmas. The concepts of family and gender as structured by familist ideology, of reproduction and reproductive labour, and of care and relationships form the foundation for understanding the issue. On this basis is built a discussion of the significance of rituals in families, of women’s sense of obligation to perform those rituals, and of the overriding concern with relationship that guides the design and carrying out of these rituals.
“Bella’s analysis of the oppressive and contradictory nature of the Christmas imperative provides a particularly useful starting point for resisting the onslaught. Her book could make a great Christmas present for your friends, mother and sisters.”
— Linda Davis, Social Work, McGill