The Commercialization of Christmas

Isacc Lavitt ’25


The holidays, for many, are no longer a celebration. They are a time to buy. Go to any store around Christmas. You will see lights, cards, wrapping paper, fake snow, artificial trees, ornaments, snowmen, and Santa hats. Every year, businesses can expect a spike in sales as people buy gifts, decorations, and food. This cheery glow from these items masks a different objective of the season: the accumulation of profit.

Companies make money from Christmas because we all purchase goods. In the late 1800s, Christmas trees became a popular icon of the season. The phenomenon originated from magazines showing families posing with their evergreen. The tree had to be decorated with tinsel and ornaments, so companies sprung up to serve that need. Decorations around and outside the house became a way to show holiday cheer.

Businesses capitalized on this with holiday advertising and sales. Our modern idea of Santa was propogated through the ads of Coca-Cola. Rudolph was conceived to sell groceries. We have loved these characters so much that Christmas is not a celebration without them, but we have forgotten their monetary origins.

Christmas movies are also great for business. One of the most loved holiday specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) a movie explicitly about the commercialization of Christmas, was ironically sponsored by Coca-Cola. Coke was showered with letters thanking them for their funding of the iconic film. Home Alone (1990) made 477 million USD. Elf (2003) made 223 million USD. Entertainment is great money for the holidays. Christmas carols are sold by the millions. Mariah Carey makes 4 million USD every winter from her songs. Every carol is played on the radio from November through December every year. Streaming services pay millions to artists to offer them to consumers. Carolling was once done to raise money for the impoverished; now it makes the artists rich.

Christmas is no longer just for Christians. In every country on Earth in December, there is someone celebrating the yuletide; and savvy marketers have noticed. It’s ironic how a baby born in a manger, a symbol of poverty and humility, has become a reason to spend great amounts of money. For some, it is better to receive than it is to give.

I do not wish to take the joy out of the Christmas season. I just want to remind you that Christ-mas is not only gifts and Santa and movies, but a time of joy and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

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