Commercializing Christmas: Such a Bad Thing?

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What seems to be an ever-present feature of modern society is the concept of commercialization. With capitalism as our economic system, monetary value is generally the dominant one, particularly when it comes to objects, assets or property; sentiment may mean something to the owner, but we ultimately judge something’s value by its monetary worth.

With this, comes the idea of commercialization; if something can make you money, then commercializing it must be a good economic move. Commercialization is in itself a process of introducing a product or method into the market.

This process has obviously happened with the Christmas period, and its intensity has only risen in recent years; whether it is the musical gem of being ‘Christmas No.1’, adverts that start in late November, or the constant bombardment of offers and products that would make the perfect Christmas gift, it is obvious we live in a world where Christmas is thoroughly commercialized.

Many people see this as a detriment; the real values and lessons Christmas was originally meant to bestow on us have faded away in a wash of electronic devices and beauty products; the notion of ‘giving’ to loved ones now means to some a dashed rush to the shops on Christmas Eve, to try to find something compatible with a loved one.

Of course, there are still those who practice the holiday of Christmas on a more minimal level, with more emphasis on the values and teachings of Christianity, but with the decline of Christianity in Britain over recent decades[1], the call of commercialization is fast becoming the prominent understanding of the festive season.

But is this a bad thing? Many people argue on the grounds of tradition that it is; that Christmas is not about the size of your wallet but the gesture of generosity itself; the old adage ‘it’s the thought that counts’ still rings true. But economically Christmas does a lot for the UK. With the spread and increased use of the internet, vast sums of people are now spending more and more money on gifts and presents as a direct result of the commercialization of Christmas.

In 2012, 113 million visits to retail websites were recorded in Britain on Boxing Day alone – a new record.[2] This obviously boosts business and, in simplistic terms, is good for the economy, as more businesses are kept afloat, meaning less job cuts, meaning more people making money.

However, this comes with a serious “but!” People may be spending money, and generally when people are spending money in an economy the health of said economy increases, and in turn shows the healthy economic climate of a region, yet this is a potential masking of a deeper problem.

In short, people are not incredibly well off in modern day Britain. Unemployment may be at its ‘lowest’ for years, but the figure still totals nearly 2.4 million people; the ratio of people who are unemployed to employed people is less than 1:15.[3]

As well, real wage valuations are dropping for a myriad of occupations, both because of ‘the age of austerity’ and the unhealthy economic climate. University staff saw a real wage cut culminating at 13% over the past few years, and this trend is not unique to them.

The Christmas spending does not reflect the money in people’s pockets. Societal and cultural demands, not the depth of someone’s pockets, now decides the over-the-top expenditure many undertake in the months of November-January.

January sees huge swathes of people running to debt advice centres, or worse to pay day loan centres. The need to satisfy the lavish Leviathan of Christmas commercialisation and the need to spend for the morning of the 25h lands many in serious trouble.

This highlights the true problem; people are unnecessarily placing themselves in a problematic situation, due to their own understanding of what a commercialized Christmas, and the ‘January sale’, means. It is an excuse for many to buy large amounts of gifts that go far beyond the core values surrounding generosity at Christmas, and can lead people to serious financial woe.

Therefore, people need to stop. There needs to be recognition that, whilst pushing ourselves to an extreme of abstaining from gift-giving and becoming frugal come Christmas time may not be the best course of action, the sheer spending that we undertake as a result of a commercialized Christmas is simply not required. If we really want to emulate the values of Christmas (whether religious or not), we shouldn’t look to simply spend our way into people’s good books, but instead only buy a sensible amount of gifts. After all, the thought of randomly buying someone an Xbox One because it’s the 3rd July seems absurd, so why go so over-the-top on the 25th.

If we learn to do this, then maybe come January many more people won’t feel so blue when they receive bills from their banks, or even worse, from the likes of Wonga and co.

Written by Simon Renwick. Edited by Gregory Pichorowycz.