Christmas has cultural and religious significance for many people around the world. In India, it is one of the many festivals celebrated, but in the west, the Christmas – New Year holiday is a prominent one and figures a lot in people’s thinking. In a 2002 research paper called ‘What makes a merry Christmas’, researchers found that there are 7 main activities that people undertake as a part of Christmas, which lead to more life satisfaction and make them happy.
The seven activities are as quoted below:
- Spending time with family;
- Participating in religious activities;
- Maintaining traditions (e.g., decorating a Christmas tree);
- Spending money on others via the purchase of gifts;
- Receiving gifts from others;
- Helping others less fortunate than ourselves; and
- Enjoying the sensual aspects of the holiday (e.g., good food, drinking, etc.).
As we can see, the primary themes here are:
- Reconnecting with friends and family (via traditions and spending time together)
- Gifting to people of our circles (and receiving gifts)
- Giving to the underprivileged
- Being thankful and looking forward to the coming year
Relevant psychological insights for the most important aspects is explained herein below.
The Market of Christmas Gifts
Emotions are a prime target for marketers. Any festival or family event is a big sales bump, and therefore, Christmas is full of marketing efforts in order to make people buy more. In one experiment, people were made to hear only white noise but they ‘heard’ famous Christmas carols because of their frequent visits to malls and shopping centers where the mood in exploited to full blast to make sales.
Research suggests that there is more to gifting than meets the eye. It is not always the thought that counts. If someone does not like the gift you give, they may actually start thinking why you gave them such a bad gift, instead of thinking that your gesture matters. Gifting money is also fleshy territory and should be avoided as it can be seen as a mark of status difference. Its best to give someone what they like or something that everyone can use but would not buy for themselves (e.g., personalized pens).
Teaching and Learning Generosity
Christmas and it’s teachings are a good way of teaching yourself and children about the joy of giving to the underprivileged. Many families make a tradition of it by buying gifts for underprivileged children or by supporting a charity. This imbibes the value of sharing and caring in everyone, and instills optimistic attitude. Whereas gifting and the marketed sort of Christmas harm our psychological well-being, generosity is actually very good for our emotional health.
Connecting and Hoping
People take holidays and spend time doing things of cultural and familial importance. This gives them a chance to bond and mull over the crosses of the past year, and hope better for the next. Therefore, the connection and sociability helps to end the year on a good note, adding to the joy and fervor of Christmas.