Merry Christmas…REALLY???

rmerry christmas

by Kenneth Justice

~Last night I had to run an errand at the store and as I walked through the door I was greeted by a barrage of Christmas decorations and the typical fare that stores try to sell you during the holiday season.

The only problem is that its not the holiday season! Its still October and once again, the stores have begun celebrating the Christmas buying season many months before the actual holiday.

I’ve read articles about this tired old bit before and I really don’t want to add to our frustration with the way the stores are ruining October and November by celebrating Christmas too early. Do merchants in Europe do this? Do stores in Canada and Australia do this? Is the United States the only country where retailers have become so obsessed with making money off of Christmas that they try to force the holiday upon us way too early?

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘The Commercialization of Christmas” In the Charlie Brown Christmas special from the 1970’s little Linus tried to warn the masses about the true meaning of Christmas and the danger of allowing it to become commercialized. Of course Linus also tried telling people about Great Pumpkin but in both instances people refused to listen to him.

Yet the more I think about it, the more I realize that we are not simply dealing with the commercialization of Christmas…..we’re dealing with the commercialization of just about everything!

—) There are commercials about the kind of wedding ring you should buy

—) There are commercials about the kind of sexual enhancement drugs you should buy

—) There are commercials about the kind of breakfast cereals that bring family together

—) There are commercials about growing old

There are commercials about everything! Every type of event you may or may not experience in your life; there is a commercial to signify the moment. If we wanted to take the time we could assemble an entire cadre of commercials that tracked the entire lifespan development of a person from birth to death!

We all know that commercials are designed to influence the way we spend our money and spend our time….yet even though we know this…how many of us are still influenced by commercials?

Sometimes when I see a billboard or an advertisement along the side of the road, I think to myself, “Are people really being influenced by those things?”….but if commercials didn’t work….then companies wouldn’t use them anymore…right?

I’ve often said that people in authority should be held to a higher standard. Politicians, priests, business owners, etc.; men and women in positions of leadership have the greater responsibility to treat those under them with respect, decency, and fairness.

But what about all of these Ad Agencies? These companies create commercials that they intentionally design to spur you to buy something. Just as a crazy television evangelist tries to get you to send him your money…..advertising agencies spend millions of dollars, research, and time in trying to figure out the best way to get you to unload your wallet or purse on their products.

When I was in school studying psychology we spent a lot of time talking about advertising. In fact, advertising is a popular career for psychologists who decide they don’t want to go into human service because the advertising field is all about understanding the psychology people.

Look, I’m not trying to say that capitalism sucks….I like many elements of the free market system. But shouldn’t we hold certain people to a higher degree of accountability? But how can we? Aren’t these types of things beyond our control?

Perhaps I am an idealist, but I’ve always believed that the way you change a society is to begin a dialogue; You start talking to one person and then your conversation grows throughout the community until a whole lot of people are talking.

Then again….perhaps I am some loon who lives in the la la land of my mind where everything smells like roses and everything tastes like coffee,


Categories: Culture & Society

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60 replies

  1. What about the commercialization of DISEASE, sickness, medication, hopelessness? Those is a big player right now. The “marketing” of illness.

  2. You’re on the mark here. Commercialization drives our society, and that is sick…

  3. My wife and I were driving home at 1am a few weeks ago when the local radio station play “Wonderful Christmas Time”. As this was the first weekend of October, we judged it WRONG.

  4. I am a marketer, and I couldn’t agree with you more. My specialty area is social media, but I also work with broadcast and print ads. We recently had a not-so-nice exchange with a radio station in our market that has been pressuring us for years to jump on their bandwagon because everyone else in our industry has. We are holding our ground that we don’t do “me too” marketing, but so many other places do – that’s why stores open earlier and earlier for Black Friday and even on Thanksgiving now, and why the Christmas merchandise comes out earlier every year. And in regards to the previous commenter’s statement about the marketing of disease, that’s a major theme in the piece I mentioned to you on Facebook the other day (which I will be emailing to you this weekend!)

  5. Ugh, this is one of my pet peeves, I’ve been seeing Christmas adverts for a few weeks already and it drives me bonkers. All it does is make me not want to buy anything and it makes my heart shrink 3 sizes, kinda like an anti-Grinch… the time Christmas gets here I’m already sick of it all because of all the adverts stuck in my head….it makes me angry because Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year…I think I need another cup of tea 😀

    • Me too! I luv Christmas but the older I get I begin to feel like the characters in the book “skipping Christmas” thinking to myself I’d probably enjoy being on vacation than deal with negative cultural elements that we are discussing

    • That’s it! And it’s not an age thing, it’s the commercialization of it, I’d love to go back to the days of maybe making something for gifts that are personalized and take thought rather than people trying to outspend each other, we need to get back to it being about family and friends instead of a competition {steps off soapbox :-D}

  6. I agree with all of you. When I was a kid, Christmas stuff wasn’t out until after Thanksgiving. Now it’s out already, and we haven’t even gotten to Halloween yet. And I think they invent diseases so they can make commercials so that you will run to the doctor to get a script. Everything is marketing. Let’s not get sucked in!

  7. Reblogged this on Rikki Tiki Tavi Mongoose is Gone and commented:
    This is a reblog of of one of my major complaints with commercialism. Thank you!

  8. Commercial? What’s a commercial? I thought everyone uses a DVR and skips the ads 🙂 I do agree when I go into a store it’s kind of crazy to see Christmas items in October… but, I do work from home selling online and I sell Christmas items starting in September. There really are people out there who start gathering their Christmas items early. I’ve been selling ornaments since August and this month has really picked up with people buying Christmas vests and sweaters. I don’t advertise, they just sit in my shop waiting on others to come buy them, so I guess people do buy early. Do I have the big box retail to thank for this? ; )

  9. The trouble with a dialogue is that it often leads to a community of like-minded people with good intentions that unfortunately leads to feeling the need to consult with an advertising company or to form a lobby. It is difficult to retain focus on the goal without getting mired in the status quo.

  10. if you are in lala land, I’m there with you.

  11. Dialoque is taken over by commercials. Look around mothersday or valentine.
    Without commercials we would not beable to watch telly. This program is sponsored by …
    Or we be watching one or two channels.
    Films, music industry and Hollywood aren’t any better. In association with… Or showing those lovely drinks.
    we have become so dependend even on commercials. Because where else can we find things for free, how else could we be blogging for free.
    How else is Google doing everything for free. Commercials and adds.
    There is a film about the fact companies take over the world. Fiction yes. Hardwired it is called. Can’t pay for healthcare. get commercials inplanted.

  12. It appears to me that the dialogue begun in this country has made itself heard. People seem to feel that they have no say so in the advertisement. That all this raunchy stuff is making lots of people happy. That the lowest moral and bad taste campaigns make the most money. In my heart I want to believe that is wrong. I want to believe that materialism isn’t a substitute for tradition and spirit. Looking for the essence of the holiday just means you have to get far from the bright lights and spin your own giving of joy.

  13. If there was a lesson in school about how the adds work, people wouldn’t be easy prey. Of course they would take advertising to an other level, not easy to imagine (well actually we see it put to work in movies and the internet, as desire makers and attention catchers).

  14. Reblogged this on Bee Bex's Personal Blog and commented:
    October – Christmas in December… yep.

  15. Everything has a price today. It is really sad. Money is often the root of all evil, if you follow the money trail. I always teach others around me that the season is about CHRIST. Hence, CHRISTmas. It is the time to celebrate our saviour. In my household, we spend very little on Christmas, and take great pride in the birth of Jesus in the manger years ago. We use the holidays as more of a family gathering time to enjoy each other. People who think back in time to remember others often think of people, and they time they shared. I never hear people crying at a funeral stating he bought me a Mercedes, a mansion, a Game Boy, etc.

  16. Sadly, I’ve begun my Christmas shopping, not because I like doing it so much that I cannot wait to get started but rather because I refuse to be in a store after Thanksgiving. There is no hell like frenzied Yuletide hell!

  17. The madness is sweeping Canada too! A couple of weekends ago I had to push Christmas decorations aside to get to the Halloween stuff.

  18. I got out of advertising because it made me sick to see how little regard agencies had for the consumers. There are people out there who honestly believe the general public is stupid and will believe whatever they are told to believe, that it isn’t wrong to mislead if it makes money and that profit outweighs social responsibility. My brand of simple, honest & informative marketing wasn’t popular and I wasn’t willing to compromise and so now I stay out of it. I have learned to be immune to marketing and see through the tricks but most people want to retain the belief that the advertisers have an obligation to be truthful and honest in their messages to the public. This misbelief is what allows generally intelligent people to buy into the advertisements and keeps the agencies in business. I saw the Christmas decorations go up weeks ago and it just makes me shake my head in sadness at how much emphasis is placed on profits. I think perhaps there was a miscommunication regarding the importance of prophets and over time that simple misunderstanding has allowed us to lose sight of what we should really value.

  19. I actually saw Christmas items in September. Ugh. I don’t mind it starting in November because people do need time to shop and let’s face it – time goes fast anymore, but anything sooner than that is just ridiculous. I don’t mind that companies use some advertising to sell their products as sometimes that’s the only way to draw attention to products for them to sell. However, it’s how they sell things. There’s almost always sex involved and it’s disgusting. My friend said it best – it’s like ad agencies have reduced us to animals and just want to appeal to deep, down primal instincts. It’s disturbing. Yes ad agencies are to blame and yet, people can think for themselves, just seems like they don’t. Obviously, that crap doesn’t work on everyone and there’s a reason for it. I feel the mute button is needed more and people need to quit listening to commercials. I was listening to a commercial about some drug the other day and then the guy’s voice was going over all the potential side effects – lordy why would anyone want to try a prescription drug that can do all that to you and your “disease” caused less harm to begin with? Yikes! Anyway, over-commercialization is despicable. I hate commercials. It’s one thing to use some research so you can use advertising effectively but it’s another to try and tap into sort of “subliminal” types or similar messaging to get your way. It’s disgraceful.

  20. Very well put!

    I think there’s another aspect at play here though. The average consumer is a huge part of the problem. We’re way too easy, way too impressionable, way too irresponsible.

    I had a chat with my daughter a few days ago. She was all upset because her friends had nicer iPod cases than hers, she said she “hated” hers, it was ugly and scratched up, she needed a new one. I reminded her that all those fancy iPod cases were just pieces of plastic, worthless at the end of the day aside from their ability to be functional. Hers was functional. She laughed.. “Omg mom, you’re right! It’s JUST PLASTIC!”

    Granted, she’s 10 but I know 50 year olds that will pay 300 dollars or more for a pair of plastic sunglasses because they “look cool” and let’s also keep in mind that it isn’t the ten year olds that are paying for these unnecessary items, it’s their parents. A hundred years ago people would have scoffed at the idea of spending their hard earned money on such pointless rubbish as fancy ipod cases or cool looking sunglasses, much less for a child, but modern day Americans don’t even bat an eyelash at such things. We’re told we deserve to have it and that we “need” it to fit in, be happy, be hip, be accepted.. and we actually believe it! In fact, anyone who doesn’t fall for these ad company shenanigans are labeled as “cheapskates”.

    Conclusion: We (collectively) are just as much to blame for our shameless self indulgence as the ad companies and politicians that exploit our vanity and fiscal irresponsibility.

    The older I get, the more I understand how valuable are the things that money can’t buy. They’re “free” but they’re priceless.

  21. Money rules the world and most of the people in it. Companies will do whatever it takes to get the money rolling in.

    On a completely different topic, I have a question that seems to come to mind every time I read your posts. Assuming you are the photographer of the pictures you use, how often do people realize you’re taking their picture? I would imagine that if they are not purposely posing for the camera, then their responses upon discovery, could be quite interesting at times. I have a vivid imagination of what may occur.

  22. I don’t have cable television mainly because I’m completely sick of being told what I need to have. Worse still, the things I’m told I need are not things like food or shelter; they’re inanimate, useless, ornamental (most of the time), trivial (almost all of the time) and mostly made of plastic, which is terrible for the environment. And the environment is what I actually need more then anything. Half the crap you can find in Walmart no one needs, and the other half can be rudimentarily fashioned from things in nature, if we only had the balls to get over our innate addiction to convenience then maybe ad campaigns might begin to wane. I agree with steffiedotorg, we are as much to blame. I’d even go so far as to say we’re more to blame because if we didn’t need these trivial things they try to sell us, then what would be the use in them trying to sell it to us?

    Here in Canada, they don’t really start busting our balls about Christmas shopping until around Remembrance Day (November 11th). But I think even that is too early. October!? Whoa!

  23. Ya know it seems like every year Christmas commercials and decor start earlier and earlier. Soon it will be all year long ! Thanks for sharing this. We are bombarded by so many commercials everyday, with people trying to make us feel unsatisfied with what we have. I don’t go to the store unless I specifically need something because even seeing a great outfit on a mannequin makes me wish I could buy it. Thankfully I fast forward through tv commercials now so I can avoid feeling like I’m in want or need at all =) I wonder if they sell a premium version of life where you get every thing discounted or free and have no advertisements ;P

  24. For some reason, as I was reading this post, it reminded me of A Charlie Brown Christmas, when Charlie says that Christmas has become too commercialized. You’re right Kenny, this kind of commercial for everything, is nauseating. We’re told what to buy, in every aspect of our lives. Frankly, I am disgusted and tired of it! But it doesn’t look like there’s anything we can do about it, can we? Money talks, and the older white men atop multibillion dollar corporations aren’t going to stack the chips towards the common man’s comfort, because all they care about is continuing to line their pockets with our hard earned money. America : land of consuming things you don’t need.

  25. I thought it was supposed about Christ, redemption all that and sharing with those you love? I guess it’s up to each of us and collectively to make it that and not be of the world though in it. Not so easy when you’re bombarded by all the commercialism.

  26. After Xmas is St Patricks Day…my birthday, so its just around the corner…Happy Birthday to me! 🙂

  27. There are a few fruit mince pies in Australian supermarkets, but on the whole, we don’t swing into Happy Commercial Christmas mode for a while yet. Sorry, but I do have to say that I think America rates no.1 on the commercialisation index, but sadly, it’s filtering through. Interesting that in the riots in the UK not long ago, shops were looted for the “glamour” items: plasma tvs, huge sound systems, electronic gadgets – all highly advertised as things you must have to count in this world. It enrages me to the point of speechless.

    Happily, my family (and its close associates) haven’t been sucked in to the diamonds-and-porches attitude to Christmas. Spending is strictly limited by agreement. We’re not particularly religious, but it’s about getting together, enjoying the traditions of years of Christmases, and celebrating the fact that we’ve got each other. Love it.

  28. I call the rush “Happy Hallowthankamas.” Yep, Christmas is the scene-stealer, but retailers (probably more so grocery chains) push Halloween and Thanksgiving as well, seemingly all at once. My wife used to ask, “What about Ramadan? Hanukkah?” and so on, and she’d suggest I add them to my holiday amalgam, but I said, “Madison Avenue doesn’t really care about those holidays!”

    Our solution so far is to look to lesser holidays to pace things out, and to the cultures of our neighbors. We try to carve out a little respect in December for some celebrations, aside from Christmas: my parents were married on the winter solstice, my wife and I on the 12th, and we have a few family birthdays. Since my father’s is on the 23rd, we try to especially give him some consideration. His 60th a few years ago, we kids just got together and made him a photo album/scrapbook.

    And being poor… well, I decided after a few birthdays of mine (the date falls the 3rd of August, actually) that all I honestly cared about was a little good food, company of friends and family, and some thoughtful gifts. My father and I also have a running joke of “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Birthday!” that he tells me when I get some help with various needs… and I don’t mind. I am grateful for the help, and I’m glad the sentiment is expressed outside those observances.

  29. It’s exactly the same here in England. In August, a food store chain ran a TV ad with the music ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’…but had changed the words slightly to imply they were talking about Summer. As if! It was part of the grand ‘warm-the-public-up-to-Christmas-so-they’ll-buy-stuff’ campaign. Cynical? Moi? 😉

  30. Yep, it’s exactly the same in England.

    I worked for a while in a well known retail store chain, and they were preparing for Christmas from at least August. I have it from one who used to work in the same store, but in the warehouses, that they would start getting things from around June.

    Mind you, people buy it. My sister’s fiancé has already bought all of the Christmas presents EVERYONE by July.

    As for me, I’ll stick to panic buying a few presents in December for the few people I care about. No Christmas presents simply for the sake of it.

    They know the score, but they still pull a face when I say it — and a bigger one when I do it.

  31. Great post. I too loathe this over promotion of Christmas on a number of levels.

  32. My sister in the Netherlands says they have something called Sinterklaus early in December and that is the time for exchanging gifts. Christmas Day is a time for family parties, feasts, going to church, etc. It seems to me a better way.

  33. I agree that the commercialisation of Christmas is often a bad thing – but on the other hand it reminds us that there’s something to look forward to soon in the dark wintry October/November months!
    Also, it can help to spread the cost (sadly undeniable) of Christmas, which can be beneficial on a budget.
    It’s the exploitation of the holiday and those who celebrate it that seems unfair – thinking about it early can be a mood-booster! 🙂

    Great and thoughtful post! 😀

  34. It’s the same here in Aus. Christmas has been well and truly out for a while. I used to work for Hallmark – I had heaps of fun – but lost the interest in the different seasons because we are thinking about them months before hand, so by the time they arrived I was sick of it. Christmas starts in August, with planning and the like. The only break we got was between Mother’s Day (may) and Father’s Day (sept). From Father’s Day onwards it was all busy – Xmas, valentines, Easter, Mother’s Day… Never ending buy buy buy.

  35. Yes: it is the same in the UK, where I live. At the end of September, beginning of October, when the children have gone back to school after summer break. Out come last year’s tired Christmas bits and pieces. These are quickly followed by a plethora of new stuff. I notice that some of the food items are out of date before Christmas arrives….Madness!

  36. Hey Kenneth, thanks for stopping by my blog! About advertising: we have a show in Australia called the Gruen Planet (previous seasons were called Gruen Transfer) which dissects all the latest commercials by a panel of experts. Try to track it down if you can, I think you’d enjoy it immensely. Also, shops start Christmas trade in October or sometimes late September in Australia, we also have 48-hour non-stop trading in some malls the week leading up to Christmas. And then we have people who shop for the next Christmas at the post-Christmas sale. It’s just one big shopping spree in the name of Christmas.

  37. As consumers we have the upper hand. We can buy locally, choosing only fair trade or environmentally impactful items if our gifts must be material. We can make charitable donations to organizations who support issues that the people we love care about. We can also choose to spend time with the ones we love. What about tickets to a show? A weekend getaway? A kayak trip? Camping? Hot-Air balloon ride?

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