Winston Churchill once said, “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection. ” As the big day draws near, it is important to reflect on the roots of the global holiday as well as the direction in which it is heading. Christmas is a tradition rooted deep in the history of western society. It has undergone many changes since it’s earliest celebrations. Even today, the holiday is constantly changing. Each year brings new innovations to Christmas. In the dawn of the holiday, it was minor and focused on the birth of Jesus, the light of the world.
In the 19th century, Christmas was a time of family and goodwill to mankind. Today, though there still remains aspects of religion and selflessness, more than ever it has become a holiday consumed by commercialism. It is a development that is not likely to go way any time soon. As the holiday of Christmas becomes more commercialized, it will become more secular as well. This has been a trend over the past few decades. People who are not practicing christians or simply nonreligious partake in the holiday every year. Major network channels like ABC broadcast christmas programming constantly.
In fact, ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas” involves Christmas movies every day until christmas, beginning December 1st. This year, a horror film called Krampus hit theaters as well. The movie depicted the “shadow of Saint Nicholas,” forgetting all traces of the religious holiday, focusing solely on old myth and folklore. Christmas celebrations today are more common than celebrations for secular holidays. When was the last time a secular holiday like the Fourth of July garnered a month of constant promotion and commercialism? With the growing secular aspect of Christmas, there is bound to be backlash.
Many corporations have holiday and promotions. Take Starbucks Coffee for example. This Christmas, they took the winter symbols off of their red, seasonal drink cups. Many people saw this as an attack on Christmas, though it was just a rebranding effort by the company. These symbols (reindeer, ornaments, etc. ) were taken off of the cups, leaving them pure red. This angered many Christians (who have nothing better to do than criticize cups), one pastor going as far as to accuse Starbucks of removing “Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus,” (Wattles). This is not the first nor last criticism of the holiday’s commercialism.
Though the Starbucks controversy was petty, there has been a trend of moving away from the religious side of the holiday. Modern day Christmas has become a red and white striped spectacle of a Jolly Fat man rather than the sacred celebration of Jesus Christ. It is also important to acknowledge the other growing religions in the United States. Though Hanukkah seen as a semi-mainstream holiday, the Jewish population is still rather small. However, according to US Census data, the number of non-religious or non-Christian people is growing every year. In 1990, 14,331 reported that they were atheist.
In 2008, 34,169 reported that they were atheist (U. S. Census Bureau). So maybe it makes sense that Christmas is becoming more secular. Less people practice religion, yet they don’t want to give up the holiday. Inversely, the population is becoming more interspersed with different religions. For example, the numbers of people who practice Islam in the United States is growing at a fast rate. In the future, this may lead to decreased numbers of people celebrating Christmas, as American society shifts away from one that is traditionally Christian. Many companies garner a great deal of their revenue from the holiday season.
Nothing seems to measure up to Christmas in terms of mass production and mass consumption. Ever since JC Penny began it’s pre-Christmas sales, more and more sales have cropped up and Black Friday has taken over the relaxing Thanksgiving weekend. People are leaving their homes at incredibly early times to get the best deals. This will only continue to grow in the future. The economy already relies on this earning period, so if it were to vanish, there would not be good consequences. With the creation of new commerce-driven days, such as Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday, the season has expanded a great deal.
The days of the extraordinary displays in the Macy’s department store are slowly fading. Though the letters to Santa keep filling mailboxes, Santa’s elves and other giftgivers are looking elsewhere to find their Christmas deals. Though department stores and Black Friday are far from over at present day, the popularity of online technology for shopping is undeniable. Technology is being used now more than ever to complete everyone’s holiday shopping lists. The dawn of online shopping has only made the holiday shopping season more hectic.
Sites like Amazon are now seeing a great deal of the business from Black Friday. Amazon recorded high sales margins this year, with about 36% of all online Black Friday sales coming from their site. Even this year, while in-store Black Friday revenue dropped 1. 5%, shopping online was at an all time high (Wisnefski). The future of Christmas consumerism is from the couch. No one wants to deal with the lines and the headaches if they can get better deals from the comfort of their own home. The mentality that it’s okay to spend more at Christmastime is more common now than ever before.
Whereas in the past, that mentality applied to charities and other giving actions, in the 21st century, it’s all about the consumer. In addition to the expansion of the season, the sales and new products offered at this time have changed as well. Electronics are very popular gifts to give, and as the world becomes more technologically driven, so will Christmas. Companies may schedule releases of new products to coincide with the Christmas season. For example, Apple may schedule releases of the new version of the iPhone in the months leading up to Christmas, as opposed to the months after it in order to increase sales during the holidays.
In other words, the commercial market will revolve around Christmas more than any other time of the year. Most people know the lyrics to Perry Como’s classic hit, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays. ” Despite the song being published over 50 years ago, its message still rings true: “There’s no place like home for the holidays /Cause no matter how far away you roam /If you want to be happy in a million ways/ For the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home. ” While the world changes around Christmas, one thing remains constant—Christmas is a time of family and happiness.
As people spread out across the world, there needs to be a universal time for families to reunite and spend time together. For people of all faiths, backgrounds and statuses, the end of the year provides them with an excuse to take off from their jobs and visit with relatives. Since Christmas is a national holiday, it is easy for people to do this. Whether it’s long distance, with airfare and skype, or just a trip down the road Christmas still does its job in reuniting families worldwide. For example, my cousin Margaret is in the U. S. Air Force.
She has been stationed in and though she has been stationed as close as Texas and as far way as Kazakhstan during her time in service. Currently, she is serving in Spain. This Christmas, she will be granted leave at Christmas for the first time in a long while. In years past, when she couldn’t make it home, she has communicated with us via Skype. With the capabilities of the 21st century, air fare is easier to come by and face-to-face conversation is just a call away. All of this goes into making her presence a part of the holiday, even though she’s half the world away.
It only go to show that not all changes in the Christmas holiday are so bad. While technology makes it easier than ever to share the holiday with loved ones, one must consider the repercussions of social media on Christmas. In general, society is becoming more superficial, concerned with status symbols like an iPhone 6s or Ugg boots. With the social media craze (which is here to stay), Christmas will take to the web. People will share what they did for Christmas and what they got for everyone to see. This may create pressure to go above and beyond to impress others.
Christmas decorations become more complex and extravagant as new technologies and new ideas gain popularity. The enormous light displays (like that in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) are becoming more popular. Tinsel just doesn’t do it anymore. Christmas is here to stay, that’s for sure. Whether or not it will be the traditional holiday that Washington Irving dreamed of is another question. Though the recent trends of secularization and commercialism of the holiday are only growing, the aspects of family and goodwill in Christmas seem to be holding on.
In our urban society, it is important to remember the lessons of the rural roots of the holiday: be kind to each other and never forget to be thankful for the things you have been given. Whether people are religious or not as they celebrate the holiday, no one should take for granted the gifts and privileges they are given at the holiday time. In the words of the great author and Christmas appreciator, Charles Dickens, ”Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused – in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened – by the recurrence of Christmas. ”