Holidays and Our Consumer Culture
Holidays have always been known to affect our consumer culture for many years, but how it all began eludes many people and very few studies have been completed on it. Even though some say that the subject is too broad to precisely to identify how holidays, especially Christmas, directly affect our market, I have found that people’s values, expectations and rituals related to holidays can cause an excessive amount of spending among our society. Most people are unaware that over the centuries holidays have become such a profitable time of year for industries that they now starting to promote gift ideas on an average of a month and a half ahead of actual holiday dates to meet consumer demands.
Religions influences on consumer’s behavioral spending habits have drastically changed throughout the past centuries. Christian’s rituals of holidays such as Christmas were once only demonstrated by worshipping God and attending Church Masses and services in early years. Their behavioral habits can be understood by their spiritual philosophy of the spirit, God. Hegal, a philosopher, argued that “spirit” represented the essence of freedom, distinguishable from the individual “self.” (Lindridge 2005). This belief prompted people to focus more intently on their religion then on the actual idea of buying gifts for the holidays. Christianity worship particularly was a time that was meant to set a time away from the markets or business’ and a time for one’s soul to repent. Often time services would be held for worship, not only Sundays and holidays, but as well two to three other days during the working week. This custom lasted for many years among the religious groups while the markets struggled to stay productive.
Fairs, markets, and amusement stands often competed with Churches for Christian’s and other various religions attention throughout the holiday periods. In view of the fact that spirituality was very important to people in earlier days, merchant stands soon started to be seen in the churches court yards due to the vast numbers of people who attended worships services on a daily basis. Merchants and traders soon became a familiar figure around churches especially during the holiday season when services were held more regularly and the turnouts were larger which usually meant they had a better chance for a sale. The merchants offered various products such as produce, meat, fabric, toys, and home made jewelry for all to see. In the picture above a Melaka Christian churchyard is filled with merchants trying to sell their products.
Religious beliefs soon formed new values as the importance of gift giving became a ‘tradition’ among religions. In most religions helping others who could not help themselves was already a steadfast belief. As people’s values of wanting to help and give to others started to intertwine with the calendar holidays many people started to look for newer and better gift ideas for their loved ones and soon strangers as well. Christian’s predominantly could be found buying minuscule little gift items, such as notebook paper, pencils, and ribbons, for the homeless children, their families and the poorer community that could not provide for themselves during the holiday seasons.
Along with people’s changing values of the holidays the public was now attending churches less every year. In order to recapture the religious group’s attentions new Cathedrals were built to entice Church goers and soon started to rival older more prominent churches in attendance. These Cathedrals would have brightly stained colored glass windows and doors, that surpassed the older churches wooden floors, walls, and old window panes and could be seen decorated to the fullest extent for various holidays that occurred throughout the year. With the colorful and gay façade of the new cathedrals people were more prone to attend these churches and their donations around...
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