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.