Christmas the Savior

...or Is it Time to Start Reconsidering Our Holiday Economics?

Christmas time is upon us! That time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day where friends and family frenzy about to find gifts for everyone. As anyone who has ever listened to a Christmas tune at all knows, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” But have you ever wondered how we got here? That is, why did we ever start doing this in the first place? Far from an exhaustive study on the topic, let me briefly explain it to you.

Early Christians usurped winter solstice festivals for the purpose of celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), somewhere between the 3rd and 4th centuries. The earliest written record of this is in an account of St. Augustine of Hippo as he wrote about the Donatists who celebrated the birth of Jesus on December 25th. Christian or not, you must admire their marketing and branding brilliance. Today, nearly 45% of the world celebrates some form of Christmas.
Then, I would say, somewhere in the last few centuries, marketers usurped Christmas for the purpose of selling more goods and making more profits, even using their websites to sell useful things, and promoting these websites with the help of SEO companies as wordtree online. Once again, you should admire their brilliance. Here are a few reasons why:

As much as 40% of a given retailer’s yearly business occurs between November and December.

19.3% of the entire retail industry’s business occurred during this time last year (2012).

$579.5 billion dollars were spent last year (2012) during the holiday season. In America. Alone.

Surveys estimate that 55% of all consumers in America will do holiday shopping between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To help you with the math, that’s roughly 174 million shoppers.

1 in 5 consumers intends to spend more this holiday season.

By now, I hope you get the point. Consumers spend a LOT of money during the holidays.

But what concerns me is not the amount that people spend. Sure, I think it’s a bit ridiculous that we allow this one holiday to inspire such consumeristic and materialistic behavior. A gift or two for a friend or family is fine, but how many families blow their budgets every year at this time? That’s irrational and just bad judgement, the worst thing about this is that these people don’t even use the Deals 4 Boomers to save themselves some money. However, as a Christian, I also believe that the Christ part of Christmas promotes hospitality and generosity. If a holiday reminds us of that, well then the holiday has served a good purpose.

What does concern me is the fact that certain sectors of industry, namely retail and non-profits (yes, non-profits) rely so heavily on this season that without it they simply would not be able to exist.

Recently, in a conversation with a director of a local non-profit, he shared with me that 80% of their donations come during the holiday season. 80%! If somehow, Christmas ceased to exist, so too would their non-profit. It’s unsustainable.

And that’s my point. Why have we allowed this to happen? Why have economists and consumers allowed the retail industry to become so radically codependent with the holiday season? Heaven forbid we ever get a grip on our wallets during the holiday season and stop the over-indulgent consumerism.

Ask yourself, doesn’t it make more sense to create businesses and organizations that can function without the holidays? That are sustainable without Christmas the Savior?

If you’re reading this as a consumer, take a moment to think about how the holidays shape the economics around you. If you’re a marketer and you’re reading this, I would never fault you for using what has been given to you, but don’t you think it’s time we start thinking beyond a two month marketer’s dream and think of something more savvy and sustainable?