A common notion someone hears regarding Christmas and Valentine’s day is that commercialized holidays are bad. Whether it’s saying that they “take away from the true meaning” or are just “lame” or a “byproduct of over-consumerism in America”, the notion is pervasive. The question is, is this consumerism truly bad?
Most people seem to feel like if a holiday doesn’t have a meaning beyond giving and getting gifts, it is somehow disgusting or inferior. This notion, however, doesn’t account for the fact that usually people feel like they have to have a special occasion to give something, or the idea that unprompted people in general may be less giving.
This giving is important, too. On a national level, giving spurs the economy into action. It is a time where money is moving, benefitting various businesses and providing jobs. The Atlantic reported (in 2011) that “Yuletide sales account for $400 billion in economic activity. Holidays hires at retail stores lift employment and stimulate the economy. For many shops, this season accounts for nearly half of their annual revenue. If you lopped December off every shopping calendar, the U.S. retail industry would be in a permanent depression.”
Additionally, a season that encourages giving and makes it even more socially acceptable allows people to be generous, which can be incredibly satisfying. “Human generosity… may turn out to be a bedrock feature of human nature,” a study from a group of psychologists from UC-Santa Barbara concluded.
Scientific American, also adds that there have been studies that have revealed neural benefits between gift giving and greediness, and studies suggested that gift giving activates rewards parts of our brains. Scientific American also goes on to add that generosity can make people happier and can make people see the world as a better place. With that being established, it’s likely that the holidays’ spirit of gift giving activates an instinctual reward in people.
Because of these reasons, a holiday should not have to have a large significant meaning. That’s not to say it can’t, meanings and traditions are important to a lot of people, but there are things about the holidays beyond their meanings that are valuable. There are economic and psychological aspects of the holidays that can make people happier, and it doesn’t seem to make sense shaming a celebration or a reason to give.
Overall, commercialized holidays, while they may have less of a deeper meaning, should still be valued for what they are and what they can do for people.