Commercialization of Christmas
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In December 2011, the Forbes magazine had published some astonishing data. The magazine said that over $450 billion is spent in the US during December, much of it spurred by the holiday season shopping. According the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme, it is likely to cost about $20 billion to solve the global water crisis - less than 5% of what Americans spend in one holiday shopping period in December. Having made a shocking revelation, Keith Levy, the author urged Americans to give more to charity and causes such as the water program in developing nations and to spend less on shopping.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, over half of Americans (52%) said they are bothered by the commercialization of Christmas. These include the views of the 26% who said that they were very bothered by it. Over 35% of the respondents to the study said that the commercialization of Christmas was a much bigger source of concern than any opposition to the display of religious symbols in public places.
This is no reason to despair, though, says another survey. Over 87% Americans believe that Christmas should be more about sharing love with family and caring for others than about giving or receiving gifts. A whopping 79% think that it is possible for one to enjoy a fulfilling Christmas without spending a lot of money.
Has Christmas Been Hijacked by Commercial Interests?
"The exchanging of gifts is one of the core aspects of the modern Christmas celebration, making the Christmas season the most profitable time of year for retailers and businesses throughout the world" - Wikipedia
In 2011, research reveals that on an average, shoppers in the US spent about $704.18 on gifts and seasonal items such as greeting cards, food and candy, flowers, Christmas tree and decorations. In 2006, the holiday spending was at $906. The recession and the economic crisis were factors in the decrease these past years but in 2012 holiday spends seem to have returned to pre-recession levels. It is estimated that those who shop online spend about 22% more than those who go out to stores and shop.
Over 57.3% Americans send out gift cards for Christmas. About 18.3% gift home decoration items or furnishings. About 21.2% gift jewelry, 17.8% gift sports equipment and 24% give cosmetics or perfumes. 32.2% Americans give electronics, while over 58.6% give clothing and accessories, 30.1% gift food and candy while 43.1% believe in gifting toys.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will be spending $563 billion for Christmas in 2012. The average spending of Christmas shoppers in the US is pegged between $750 and $770. It is anticipated that Apple will sell 46.5 million iPhones in the fourth calendar quarter of 2012, due to the gifting season.
Secret Santa is one of the most popular traditions in modern day workplaces and organizations. With an aim to cut out the commercialization, reduce spending and keeping the spirit alive, Secret Santa is a fun exercise in which each volunteer picks one colleague and sends him or her an anonymous gift within a set price.
The exact origins of Secret Santa are not known but the earliest known person to have played Secret Santa was American philanthropist Larry Dean Stewart. Stewart wanted to help people and remain an anonymous donor. He had himself received help from an unknown donor in his early days and had gone on to make millions in cable television. Stewart is believed to have handed out $100 bills to people amounting to a total of $1.6 million in 26 years.
In all the organizations and workplaces in the UK, over one third of the employees are estimated to sign up for Secret Santa this year. The volunteers’ names are placed in a Santa hat and each employee gets to draw a colleague’s name. The volunteer then buys the recipient a gift matching his/her character within a pre-decided price limit. The gift is anonymously delivered to all who volunteer to play. Secret Santa is popular since it saves the trouble of having to buy all colleagues gifts over Christmas, keeps the price under control, ensures everyone gets a gift, and involves a lot of fun in guessing who bought what.
E-commerce site Reddit runs an extensive Secret Santa program where members of an organization sign up for gift exchange. In 2012, 59,742 people from 126 countries have signed up to take part in Reddit Secret Santa.
The Spirit of Charity
'When Christmas is over,' said the merchant to the minister, 'it's over, and it's our job to rid the store of Christmas in a day.' 'Well,' the minister replied, 'I've got a bigger job - to keep Christmas in the hearts of my people for all year.'
Rev. Mike Slaughter, the lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church outside Dayton, Ohio is also the author of the book, “Christmas Is Not Your Birthday”. In his book he asks people to consider what Jesus might like for his birthday and make a contribution to society and community equaling what they spend on Christmas festivities. Through what is now named the Christmas Miracle Offering, his church has built 243 schools and 19 clean water facilities in Darfur, Sudan, and a health clinic in South Sudan.
Total contributions to all charities in the US by individuals, corporations, and foundations were pegged at $298.42 billion in 2011. This is an increase in 4% in current dollars and 0.9% in inflation-adjusted dollars from the figure of $286.91 billion in 2010. Americans gave $260 billion to charities of all kinds in 2005. The increase over the past six years has not been a substantial one. Also these are year-round contributions. It may well be considering here that the American economy has been through a tough recession in recent years. These figures are based on reports from the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
In the UK, 58% adults are known to provide contributions to charitable causes. The total amount given to charity in 2010-11 is £11.0 billion. In 2009-10 the amount was £10.6 billion and when the total is adjusted for inflation there has not been an increase in real terms.
Top 5 Christmas Charity Programs
Salvation Army Christmas Assistance Programs - Helps millions each year with its social services programs.
Make A Wish Foundation - Makes the holiday season special by helping a child’s dream come true.
Toys For Tots – Helps provide underprivileged children a toy each over the holiday season.
Samaritan's Purse - Delivers shoe boxes full of gifts to under-privileged children in developing nations.
My Two Front Teeth - Distributes gift to the child for Christmas as selected by donors on the website.
Black Friday & Cyber Monday
This year in the US, over 35 million Americans visited stores and websites on Thanksgiving Day. Traditionally, the Christmas shopping begins on the day following Thanksgiving Day, also known as "Black Friday". The past two years, however, retailers have been opening up to shoppers on Thanksgiving Day. According to the National Retail Federation, over 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the Black Friday weekend. Wal-Mart and other retail chains opened up as early at 8 pm on Thanksgiving Day. The move is heavily criticized as a number of shoppers queued up sacrificing their holiday for discount shopping.
"Black Friday shopping is known for attracting aggressive crowds, with annual reports of assaults, shootings, and throngs of people trampling on other shoppers in an attempt to get the best deal on a product before supplies run out" - Wikipedia
In 2005, Shop.org coined the term "Cyber Monday". E-commerce sites have since been persuading shoppers to make purchases online on the Monday following Thanksgiving. A number of attractive schemes and free shipping offers are launched to attract customers. In 2011, Cyber Monday online sales went up by about 33% over 2010. Total online sales in the US on Cyber Monday were pegged at $1,251 million. Average order values were an estimated $198.26. In 2011, 152 million Americans started to shop on Black Friday weekend. An average shopper spent $398.62 that weekend. Cyber Monday shopping has also spread to a number of countries including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and European nations.
Christmas Shopping Trivia
In the UK £7.9 billion was spent by online shoppers in the month of December 2011 alone. Boxing Day was the biggest in terms of online retail sales that year.
In Australia, a pre-Christmas survey by Getprice reveals that over 37% Australians spend between AUD 500 & 1000 on Christmas shopping.
A 2011 Environment Research Group poll reveals that in 2011, 50% Canadians spent between CAD 500 & 2000 on Christmas shopping, 22% spent over CAD 2000, and 28% spent less than CAD 500. An average Canadian spent CAD 613 on gift purchases and CAD 203 on entertaining family and guests.
In 2012, Brazilians spent BRL 38 billion in all during the holiday season. This year the spends are likely to go up by an additional BRL 6 billion.
According to Citibank, Russians are likely to increase their spending by 42% in December. The highest spending growth rate is in toys and alcohol.
In Moscow each person will spend approximately RUB 19,000 in December, in St. Petersburg the average spend will be about RUB 14,000 and in other regions of Russia, each person will spend about RUB 10,000.
The True Meaning Of Christmas
In a 2008 poll by the website YoungPoll.com, less than 75% children across the UK knew that Christmas is meant to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. Over 11% children believed that Christmas was the birthday of Father Christmas. Additionally, 6% thought that December 25 was a date set aside to get gifts, 3% thought that Christmas celebrated the invention of chocolate and 9 % thought it is Easter bunny’s birthday.
In 2011, a UK survey had startling revelations. About 20% children in the UK between the ages of 5 & 7 think Christmas festivities celebrate Simon Cowell’s birthday and 36% don’t know whose birthday is being celebrated.
A 2011 survey conducted on behalf of Theos reveals that 40% Americans think that Christmas is a good excuse to take time off and doesn't really have any meaning today but 34 % do not agree with this. 83% respondents agreed that Christmas is all about spending time with family and friends. 41% think that Christmas celebrates Gods loves for humanity. 24% disagreed with this thought.
Christmas Spirit Vs Christmas Hype – Is This The Choice?