Are Festivities Too Commercialised?
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When it comes to the holiday season, sometimes it starts as early as September in shops, with decorations, food, and gifts filling the aisles. There are channels on TV dedicated solely to Christmas movies, and all the famous songs start floating through the airwaves. But is this a good or a bad thing? Has the festive season become too commercialised? Or is the magic - and true meaning of the holiday - still there? Writers’ Club members Eve and Jay discuss the way they see it…
JAY: THE FESTIVE SEASON IS TOO COMMERCIALISED
The holiday season is a time we all enjoy, from family reunions to the abundance of presents and various holiday traditions. It is hard not to love a time when so much occurs. Although, for some, this late winter period is a time for dread as expenses rise due to the need to maintain these traditions.
The increased production of products that only appear around this time of year - like Christmas wrapping paper, cards, and Christmas themed foods - can also have an impact on the environment, as waste rates could drastically increase per household. The traditions of the holidays have become commercialised as they present a ‘proper’ way to have a ‘proper Christmas experience’. And for some people, that means they are spending more money to have the picture perfect holiday, and the stores are profiting from their overindulgence.
This sudden increase in expenses can hit the less financially fortunate across England in a big way. In my experience, my family has found the increased pressure to provide during this period to greatly impact our household in the long run, and the new year becomes more about ‘earning back’ rather than starting fresh. For some, this period of time has become more about materialism than the original traditional values of family and relationships, and how as a society, we have come to the conclusion that love can be bought and the holiday season is the time to cash out.
Travel also plays a big part in money worries for some people at this time of year, as there can be pressure to reunite with family members - who may be scattered all over the country, and sometimes the world. That means extra travel, flights and petrol costs, on top of expenses for gifts and food. This was not necessarily the case last year, as the COVID-19 lockdowns meant many families took to a ‘FaceTime Christmas’. This may seem a solution for rising travel costs, but in reality it just proves how the holidays have become more about expenses and presents than actually having quality family time with one and other.
I believe within society we have lost connection to the true traditions of this holiday - being together and not putting so much pressure on giving - because of how commercialised the holidays are, and it only worsens ourselves and our economic situations as time goes on.
EVE: THE FESTIVE SEASON IS NOT TOO COMMERCIALISED
The festive season isn’t all about commercialisation and money. It’s about coming together with family and upholding traditions, be them family-based or global.
Previously, festivities such as Christmas had simply been about the religious celebrations, spending time with loved ones and upholding family traditions, community traditions and global festivities. However, in recent years, celebrations, especially around Christmas time, could be seen to have become more commercialised and some people may even say we have lost the true meaning of Christmas, but that is not strictly true. Christmas has evolved in many different ways throughout different eras, but in recent years, the way Christmas has changed is how people celebrate in such different ways. Some people spend it in religious worship. Some people spend it with family and some with friends. Some even spend it by themselves and still have the best time (or they join others later on). The point is that people nowadays spend the festive period in such different ways that the true meaning of Christmas is now whatever each person makes it and commercialisation is simply an add-on to the modern day Christmas.
Christmas time for me is about having my grandparents round and laughing about the shockingly awful but wholesome and festive TV shows. It’s about my nana turning up slightly drunk off the two Baileys infused coffees she’s had on Christmas morning. It’s about being together in the warmth of the living room, out of the snowy, cold winter air after a day of snowman building, snowball fights and icy treks in winter coats and bobble hats. It’s about my mum dropping a really cool looking dessert on the floor and instead just serving a Christmas pudding we got given in August. Not only is watching random people dress up as Santa immensely entertaining, but when things malfunction and when things go wrong, it makes Christmas even more fun and hilarious. These things don’t require money and often lead to the most funny moments.
Yes, Christmas is also about presents, expecting them and giving them. Yes, Christmas is about gorging on meat and gravy and some kind of dessert. Christmas has indeed been bought into. However, Christmas has always been bought into, from kids nowadays expecting a mountain of gifts, to baby Jesus receiving gold coins when he couldn’t even hold his head up. The meaning of Christmas may be about religion to some and love and family, but there has always been an element of money. Even when people had nothing, they would find a way to give gifts, however small and menial they may have appeared to an onlooker. So as much as Christmas is about family and friends, there has always been an element of value somewhere.
From my perspective, my Christmas consists more of making sure everyone is together. Everyone loves receiving gifts, but we would be much more content seeing all our family and friends during the Christmas period, over having lots of gifts under the tree. Especially this year where we’ve all been apart more, seeing everyone will mean so much more. I personally treasure moments like watching my flatmates try for hours to make an enormous paper chain decoration to go through our hallway whilst listening to Christmas songs in our kitchen, way more than seeing the ridiculous amounts of money shoppers will spend on things you could make or put together yourself. Not everything is commercialised. Not everything is about throwing money at an occasion and expecting it to turn out good in the end.
I value seeing my friends on Christmas Eve because it’s our tradition. I value my nana’s love when she sees me for the first time in months. I value watching all the different Christmas specials with my dad (even the ones my mum doesn’t like). I value having to watch them all a few days later because we couldn’t hear them over my nana speaking loudly. I value making paper snowflakes in my flat that turn out looking like art deco squares and geometric patterns. I cherish moments over money or whatever the true meaning of Christmas even is.
What even is the true meaning of Christmas? Is there a concrete written definition somewhere? Everyone writes their own ideas and ideal scenarios because the true meaning of Christmas is whatever makes you and those around you happy. The festive season is about giving, but it’s up to you how you interpret it and how you choose to spend it that really matters. Not everything has to be perfect. Everything going wrong and still having the funniest, silliest, most ridiculous time is what the festive period is about. Now that is the true meaning of Christmas.