How we're making Christmas commercialised even though we might not mean to
Merry Christmas! It would seem wrong to start this piece with anything other than a warm Christmas wish, so if you’re celebrating, I really hope you are having an awesome day.
Christmas is a day to celebrate the birth of Christ. But have we swapped ‘Christ’ for a different C word? You’ll spot it under your Christmas tree, or in your stocking hanging above the fireplace today - a thinly veiled (or more like wrapped in sparkly paper) celebration of Capitalism.
For the first time ever, shoppers are predicted to spend £1 billion on Christmas day, hunting for pre-Boxing Day sale bargains, or very very last minute Christmas presents. Clicking away on their laptops or tapping away on their phones, online shopping makes the rewatch of Home Alone 3 a lot less exciting.
But is it really their fault? We’re living in a hyper-commercialised culture, and Christmas only brings our obsession with all-things-nice (emphasis on things) out in the open. The city is painted in an eye-catching shade of glitter. Department store windows are glowing with shimmering backdrops, bright lights and props of perfectly-wrapped gift boxes. ‘Merry Christmas’, or some brand-centric Christmas pun is plastered across billboards. TV screens are cinemas for heart-warming Christmas adverts, with huge budgets spent behind them. This cacophony of ‘it’s Christmas!’ fills the winter drear with a feeling of lightheartedness, generosity, and festive cheer. This is the best time for companies to do their selling.
This feeling makes us prone to spending more in the winter. Generous gift-buying costs us dearly in December, and with this in mind, employers pay us earlier in the month, but that only leaves us out of pocket for a longer time. Other costs are not just heating bills, burst pipes, and cold and flu medicine - darker days and colder evenings have us spending more money on lazy takeaways and winter wardrobes too. Our money-spending habits are affected by our winter leisure-time too. We spend less time socialising, which has us spending more time watching movies and browsing through social media, which eventually influences how we shop. Click on Instagram and you’ll see your friend flaunting her fabulous Christmas party dress. #Asos, says her caption. Open Facebook and you have clothing brands flogging their oh-so-unique pieces through carousel adverts and edgy captions. To put my point in the context of statistics, it’s been found that 30% of 15-24 year-olds look at social media influencers for shopping inspiration. It’s a melting pot for item envy and fashion FOMO.
Come Christmas and boomerangs of Christmas crackers pushing and pulling litter your friends’ stories. Sooooo many Christmas tree pictures, and so many presents underneath. Christmas jumpers, Santa hats and reindeer ears are the essential Christmas attire. It’s so difficult to disconnect, even for today. It’s Christmas, but for everyone to see.
In the run up to Christmas, all of these ‘essentials’ are marketed to us as exactly that. If you don’t have a Santa hat within 2 metres of you, do you really even have the festive spirit? Spend on these items, otherwise apparently you won’t be celebrating Christmas properly. We’re buying things we don’t really need. When did Christmas become more about that ultimate family Christmas card/photo, rather than the time we spend with them?
Problem is, come 26th December and post, all these ‘essentials’ will be selling for pennies. Boxing Day just adds to the commercialisation of the festive season, when shoppers will be queueing up for bargains. Now, with more and more stores starting their sales earlier, the shopping frenzy is beginning to eclipse the tradition of Christmas Day.
Petitions to keep stores closed on Boxing Day have made the headlines numerous times in the past couple of years, because people believe that staff should be given more time to spend with their families. People realise that family time used to be at the centre of the joy of the festive season, and how that’s no longer the case, but when the habit and demand for Winter sale shopping is so widespread, can anyone really forego it?
Stores also know that big profit is to be made on Boxing Day, so why miss out? It’s been predicted that shoppers will spend £4.75 billion online and in stores on Boxing Day. Unless the government actually does take these petitions into account, stores won’t give it up. And even if stores are forced to close on the 26th, the Boxing Day blowouts will probably just take place on the 27th instead.
The mentality of buying and spending is so ingrained within us during this time, that we really just can’t resist a good bargain. But it’s not really all our fault, because as our living standards drop, we are searching for more bargains. But what is our fault is that even though our living standards might be dropping, social media, particularly on and around Christmas, has us obsessing and sometimes even buying things we can’t really afford.
Seeing, obsessing, and buying is slowly becoming the focus of the Christmas period, but that’s not to say that it’s not a thing throughout the rest of the year. The culture focused on sharing and seeing everything means that we’re always involved (a little too much, perhaps?) in what other people are doing, and that influences how we live our lives so much.
Of course, that’s not me saying hurrr durrr technology is bad. Social media has brought us all closer. We can now celebrate Christmas with family miles away from us. We can share all of our special moments with people we care about. Truth is, even without social media, Christmas had already become commercialised anyway. Whether it’s now or 15 years ago, a couple of definitely-asked questions include ‘have you done your Christmas shopping?’ and ‘what did you get for Christmas?’
Is it that dirty word then? Capitalism. Oooh she said it. I’m no socialist or communist, but I would agree that capitalism has had an influence on Christmas, and it’s not necessarily a good one. Christmas, in its purest form is about the birth of Jesus Christ and a reflection of his values. Do many people still celebrate it as such? I wouldn’t be so sure. Is it a destruction of culture, or is it society just moving on from traditions? And how can we measure how much capitalism is to blame? Truth is, there isn’t really a way to do so. So even though we can conclude that Christmas is becoming increasingly commercialised, there’s not much we can do about it apart from stopping ourselves from indulging into unnecessary buying. But when I see that coat that I’ve been coveting so long, I’m not sure if I can resist. Can you?