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Experts Available to Discuss Holiday Topics

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posted: Thursday December 17, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are available to discuss issues ranging from beating the holiday blues to timeless holiday traditions to children's fantasies of Santa Claus. E-mail is the preferred method of contact for these experts.

Intrinsically Texas Holiday Customs
Hans Boas
Associate Professor, Department of Germanic Studies
512-232-6358
hcb@mail.utexas.edu

Boas' research specializes in the Texas German dialect. As he travels across Texas to interview the last remaining speakers for his Texas German Dialect Project, he examines the cultural traditions intrinsic to Texas. He is available to discuss Texas' unique holiday traditions introduced by German immigrants in the 1900s, such as traditional German Christmas carols, culinary customs and tree trimming celebrations.

Inside America's Shopping Mall Culture
Christine Williams
Professor, Department of Sociology
512-232-6321
cwilliams@austin.utexas.edu

From her three-month stint working at two national toy store chains, Williams provides a fly-on-the-wall exploration of how people shop in America's shopping mall culture in her book "Inside Toyland: Working, Shopping and Social Inequality." She can discuss an array of holiday shopping topics, including gender differences in shopping behavior, gender and racial inequalities among consumers and retail clerks, and new trends in toy shopping.

Holiday Blues
Arthur Markman
Professor, Department of Psychology
512-471-6175
markman@mail.utexas.edu

Markman researches a broad spectrum of topics in the realm of behavioral psychology. He can speak about the psychology of holiday blues--from shopping under a tight budget to struggling with willpower to coping with loneliness. Visit his Psychology Today blog, "Ulterior Motives," for more about his research.

Holiday Shopping in a Bleak Economy
Daniel Hamermesh
The Sue Killam Professor in The Foundations of Economics
College of Liberal Arts
512-475-8526
hamermes@eco.utexas.edu

Hamermesh can offer insights into trends in holiday shopping, consumers' strategically planned holiday budgets and how stores are faring in a shaky economy. Visit the New York Times "Freakonomics" blog for more about his research.

Christmas in America
Penne Restad
Senior Lecturer, Department of History
512-471-5236
restad@mail.utexas.edu

Restad studies religion and culture and can discuss the commercialization of religious holidays. She is the author of "Christmas in America: A History," which examines the secularization of the Christian holy day. From the early Pagan winter festivals to the birth of Santa Claus, Restad offers insight into how modern-day Santa Claus characterizations, as well as Hollywood film depictions, influence a commercialized perception of the Christmas spirit.

Children's Christmas Fantasies
Jacqueline Woolley
Professor and Acting Chair of the Department of Psychology
512-471-5196
woolley@psy.utexas.edu

Is it wrong to lie to your children about Santa Claus, flying reindeer and talking snowmen? Woolley can offer insight into the psychological effect of these myths on children. She studies children's understanding of reality, a topic with a long history that continues to intrigue and perplex developmental psychologists. The goal of her research is to investigate how children make reality status judgments when they encounter novel information.

Christmas Traditions in Latin America
Virginia Garrard-Burnett
Associate Professor, Department of History
512-475-7822
garrard@mail.utexas.edu

A scholar of Latin American history and religions, Burnett is available to discuss December holiday traditions, such as Las Posadas, Feast Day of our Lady of Guadalupe, Navidad and Dia de los Tres Reyes. Burnett, who speaks fluent Spanish, researches religious movements and ethnic identity in Latin America, with a particular interest in Central America.

The Religious Origins of Christmas
Steve Friesen
The Louise Farmer Boyer Chair in Biblical Studies, Department of Classics
512-471-8629
friesen@mail.utexas.edu

Friesen is available to discuss the religious roots of Christmas and the secularization of religious holidays. He teaches courses such as "Introduction to the New Testament," and "Revelation and Apocalyptic Literature." He is the author of "Imperial Cults and Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins."

L. Michael White
Ronald Nelson Smith Chair, Department of Classics;
Director, Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins
512-232-1438
lmwhite@mail.utexas.edu

White is available to discuss the Christian roots of Christmas. He teaches courses such as "The Rise of Christianity" and "Jesus in History and Tradition." He is the author of "From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries and Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith." To learn more, read the feature "The Gospel Truth?".

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