The purpose of this paper is to focus on the editorial content of monthly women's magazines and consider their role in facilitating the Christmas food rituals. Of particular interest is the extent to which the special food features have adapted to support the changes in women's lifestyles over the last 20 years.
The authors conducted a longitudinal social semiotic analysis of Christmas food features in women's magazines in Australia and the UK over the period 1991‐2011.
The analysis reveals a recurring conflict between the magazine content and the lifestyles of their readers. For families to participate in and maintain the Christmas ritual still means devotion, typically by a woman. The message has not changed, even though the work/home balance for many women has. The responsibility for putting the “magic” in Christmas lies firmly at the woman's feet. The magazines' text convey a contradictory message by offering readers budget and timesaving tips, while their visuals imply that such “shortcuts” stand in the way of the sought‐after magical Christmas, the rituals must be followed in full.
Adopting a longitudinal social semiotic analysis enabled the authors to conduct a detailed comparison of both text and imagery across the magazines and across the years. The authors were also able to report on how the sign complexes such as colour and text worked in combination to create a social message.
Whilst women's magazines remain an important vehicle for the transmission of social values, the paper's findings demonstrate that they are not necessarily adapting to social change.
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