The Positive Side of a Commercialized Christmas

Derek Ouellette —  December 22, 2011

Everywhere we look we see or hear or read somebody complain about the “commercialization” of Christmas. In fact, this is one of those rare points that Christians across the theological spectrum seem to agree upon, at least in theory. The conservative bunch want to remind us that Christmas is all about Christ, not debt or spending in societal frenzy. The rest of them – social, progressives, liberals and so on –  want to remind us that people around the world are starving to death while each consumer in America spends almost $800 dollars on frivolous stuff during the holiday season.

Yet I think there are some redeemable qualities to a commercialized holiday season.

1) It keeps the economic engine running.

Since I’ve worked in retail my eyes have been opened to the fact that if it weren’t for Christmas I would not have a job, plain and simple. In fact, from talking to friends in the industry from clothing stores to T.V. commercial producers I’m told it’s the same across the board. Most (if not all) retailers and those businesses that depend on them simply would not survive the year without a commercialized Christmas season. Thousands, maybe millions across North America would lose there jobs. The crash in the housing and auto industries would be nothing compared to a retail-implosion.

And how can an impoverished people help feed and clothe an impoverished world?

2) It feeds and clothes the world.

I can’t really put my finger on why it is and I’m not sure if studies have been done to explain it, but during the holiday season people give like no other time of the year. Walk in any mall or outlet centre and you’ll be sure to pass a bell ringer for the Salvation Army with a donation box stuffed to the hilt with bills. You’ll probably also pass kiosks set up with attendees recruiting people to sponsor children from Compassion International to World Vision or any number of other type of child donation programs. My friend is a pastor of a really small church and just the other day his wife was telling me that the church members donated an unprecedented $3000+ to support missions overseas.

The statistics I have show that (and this is specifically in the USA) 50% of all donations given throughout the year are donated between the USA Thanksgiving weekend and New Years Day. That amount (at least during the 2005 holiday season) was $260 billion dollars.

My guess is that there are three reasons why people give so much at Christmas:

1) Christmas reminds us of God’s ultimate sacrificial gift. We are then motivated to give.

2) We spend so much money on frivolous stuff during the holiday season that we feel guilty and attempt to alleviate that guilt by giving to charitable causes.

3) We expect to drop money like flies during the holiday season. It’s much easier to drop it in a donation box with that mindset than at other times of the year when mediocrity has set in.

The commercialization of Christmas helps feed the world and it helps me put food on the table for my family.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Tricia

    As someone who works for a non-profit, and really doesn’t believe in the whole commercialization of Christmas (too many years in retail!), I would like to point out that a significant portion of people aren’t increasing their donations between Thanksgiving and Christmas because they feel inspired to do so by the season. It’s the end of the income tax year, and they’re fixated on getting charitable receipts to improve their tax returns.

    • Derek

      I suggested three reasons why giving is up between Thanksgiving and Christmas, not one. I’d happily add your idea to the list, but not as a trump to the other three, rather as an additional probable reason.

  • Tricia

    Agreed that is additional. But I would argue it still is often THE underlying reason.

    In terms of the song Don’t they know it’s Christmas… you should read this post from a friend of mine

  • LCK

    Derek, I may be one of those people who is adamantly anti-commericialization, but I still appreciate reading such a well-reasoned argument for the other side.

    I actually don’t include the inclination toward charitable giving in my definition of a commercialized Christmas. Nor do I include a person’s honest desire to give something to someone he/she loves. Nor, in fact, do I include the tradition of giving presents to children. (I am a huge fan of things like Toys for Tots) When I speak or write about a commercialized Christmas, I am referring specifically to the overt message of countless add campaigns that a person cannot be considered as having celebrated Christmas UNLESS one buys presents. My definition of a commercialized Christmas is one in which the exchange of presents is the primary and obligatory act that defines what it means to celebrate Christmas.

    I thought your case for how Christmas helps the economy was very logical and persuasive, and I’ll make sure that I am more specific in my definition of what I mean by “commercial Christmas” next time I rant about it….but I will still rant… a little :)

    • Derek Ouellette

      LOL… I totally get that. While thinking about the “commercialization of Christianity” more negatives than positives came to mind. Did you know, for example, that January 8th is the busies day of the year for divorce lawyers which studies of shown to be directly connected to the pressures of the Christmas season? I think inherently the commercialization of Christmas is not a good thing.

      I should clarify that I don’t include charitable giving in a definition of a commercialized Christmas. I’m merely suggesting that charitable giving is a possible positive result to a commercialized Christmas.

      P.S. I haven’t seen any of your rants about it, but now I’ll have to go take a look. :)