“Holidays are somehow not fashionable, and yet they are celebrated by all–whether the celebrants take them seriously or claim not to,” writes School of the Art Institute prof Maud Lavin in The Business of Holidays (Monacelli Press), an examination of the culture and commercialism of our annual observances. And we spend billions of dollars on them every year, seriously or not. Lavin assembled a team of writers, artists, and designers (many of whom know each other from SAIC, giving the book plenty of local flavor) to explore the reasons. The essays cover the biggies like Christmas, “obligation holidays” like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, the up-and-coming (Gay Pride Day), the flops (Sweetest Day), and even the fictional (Seinfeld’s Festivus). Among the many interesting factoids: Valli Produce in Arlington Heights sells about 25,000 pounds of cabbage around Saint Patrick’s Day; as a nation we buy 480 million Peeps every Easter; more than half the American flags we bought after 9/11 were manufactured in China. But what really sells the book are the colorful, glossy illustrations–more than 300 of them–depicting the celebrations in all their glorious kitsch. (Don’t miss the football-stuffed turkey on page 217.) Lavin appears along with contributors at the following events. Fri 12/3, 6 PM, Quimby’s Bookstore, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910, and Thu 12/9, 7 PM, Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln, 773-293-2665. An exhibit of art from the book opens next week: Fri 12/10, 6 PM, Three Walls Gallery, 119 N. Peoria, #2A, 312-432-3972.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Matthew Beaton.