Photo Courtesy of Simplify Christmas
Yorba Linda High School

Christmas: Christianity or commercialism?

Rocking around the marketing plea.


As we enter the month of December, it is important to elicit the variance of cultural and religious holidays that have continued to influence our social sphere throughout the decades. During this most gratuitous season, we recognize several annual observances that commemorate the urbanites of our communities such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Omisoka, Boxing Day, The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and most popularly…Christmas.


Christmas has been prevalent for the greater portion of recorded history after the “B.C.E period,” and is celebrated worldwide with the added oscillation between cultural values. It is most recognized as the annual Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and it is often consecrated by the exchanging of gifts, avidly colorful decorations, Christmas trees, and the long anticipated wait for “Santa Claus.”


Currently, the percentage of people who celebrate Christmas remains at a constant 92% throughout the world. But this relatively high statistic is very odd given that the societal commonality has started to stray away from the customs of modern religion. Approximately 1.1 billion individuals identify as “religiously unaffiliated” or “agnostic”, and the percentage of those who claim a religion has been steadily declining for the past few decades. This could be a result of several different externalities such as scientific advancement or the diversity of religions, but the celebration of Christmas has still remained ubiquitous and pronounced.


Although this holiday is deeply rooted in religious reverence given its Christian lineage, the confines of this recurring holiday have become more of a secular celebration of sentiment than the actual spiritual denominations it originated on. In simpler terms, Christmas has evolved into more of a cultural holiday than a religious one in light of the decline of religious pretension.


In response to this societal shift, there has been an obvious communal disseverance between whether the holiday should be celebrated more as a “feeling” (taking into consideration the variability of beliefs and customs of different cultures) or remain solely an anniversary of religious traditions. On one side, Christians denounce those who refuse to celebrate religiously, because they might see it as an appropriation of their beliefs. But on the opposing front of this argument, those who celebrate Christmas culturally see the festivities as an opportunity to reconnect to their morality.


But despite if you believe that Christmas is a religious or cultural holiday, the real issue at hand is the overexercised exploitation of this celebration as a mere commercialism ploi. During this time every year, we begin to see the abundance of holiday-themed commercials tailored to either parents or children in an invariably meticulous way. The thirty-second sales pitch usually contains the common trope of someone not appreciating a gift until they get the object they want or a child’s sole enjoyment being the product that the company offers. With the mixed themes of selfishness and human vanity, it is expected for Christians tied to their traditionalism to criticize those who consider Christmas a cultural holiday because these companies represent the remainder of society. They force an idea of consumerism and emotionally exploitive ideals in order to turn a profit, and they illiberally take advantage of our societal commonwealth. Thus, these corporations neglect the elemental gratuity that both culture and religion yearn to communicate, blurring the lines of understanding between the two.


No matter one’s personal connection or observance of this widely popularized holiday, it shouldn’t be an issue of whether the individual is celebrating it religiously or culturally, but merely if they embrace the underlying sentiment of Christmas. As Alex Lee (12) puts it, “The world is in a constant state of diversification, and if we simply can’t accept the sentimentality of our peers based on our own religious bias, then there is no chance of positive progression.” Furthermore, the condemnation of one taking part in a celebration that solely belongs to one religion is such a reclusive and possessive way of determining someone else’s convictions. We should not neglect the possibility of total benefaction because of the antagonistic influence of mass corporations who could care less about the integrity of modern society. We should embrace this shift in cultural and religious ideals into one polysemous facet, allowing a moral common ground to associate with, and ultimately denouncing the confines of an incredulous, greed-ridden corporate conglomeration.