The Commercialization of Christmas in American Society By: Melissa Leone Advisor: Dr. Richard Lutz Warrington College of Business Administration Marketing (BSBA MKG) 4/2 0 /2011
1 Christmas is arguably one of the holiest religious holi days and the greatest commercial holiday in the Christian world (Belk Materialism 75 ). The increasing importance of the holiday in American society is demonstrated not only through religious observance and celebration of the Christmas materialism and commercialism are heightened during the holiday season, which is paradoxical since the Christian religion preaches anti materialistic ideals (Belk, Materialism 75 ). When the first colonists came to America, they brought religious and folk customs, which c ontributed to the cultural foundation and secularization of the national festival. Though often referred to together or interchangeably when discussing the holiday, there is a significant difference between the commercialization and the secularization of Christmas. According to the Merriam Both commercialization and secularization are evident during the Christmas season, specifically in the marketplace where companies tend to emphasize holiday shopping as early as October and exploit the holiday by using folk characters, advertisements, window displays etc culture the marketplace serves all too obviously as a primary arena for Christmas preparation, observance, and enthrallm ent (Schmidt Christianity par. 1) It is during the Christmas season that it seems as if mall s and department stores are more recognized as a venue to celebrate the hol iday rather than the church which suggests the influential power of the market in American religion (Sch midt Christianity par 18). For centuries, Christians have struggled with the questions of if, when, and how to birth (Restad 2). Although there is no historical source that identifies an exact
2 date of the N sometime during the fourth century of the Common Era, the Roman Catholic th and it continues to be celebrated on this day today (Restad 2). Christmas was not only a celebration of the birth of Jesus upon w hich the religion depended, but was also a celebration of the conclusion of the year for pagan rites (Restad 1) When the ear ly colonists brought and spread Christmas to America, their religious, sacred, and folk traditions created the cultural foundation of the holiday that is still evident today. Christmas was introduced to the American colonies while it was the subject of intense opposition and controversy in England during the seventeenth century Many Americans are unaware that Christmas celebrations were condemned by many colonists, specificall y the Puritans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Quakers, during the seventeenth and eighteenth century (Barnett 2). During this time, Christmas was the most important celebration for the Church of England, but the English Puritans opposed what they believed to be a secular, unholy celebration a (Barne t t 2). The majority of the Puritan settlers identified the Church of England with royal officials and Toryism, which to their denominational opposition to doctrines and practices established (Barnett 5). both politically and religiously (Barnett 5). that took place du ring Christmas in England, which interfered with their simple, religious observance (Barnett 4). In 1620 the New England Puritans spent their first Christmas Day in America
3 Further hostility to the celebration of Christmas was emphasized when t he Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed an ordinance in 1629 stating that Christmas be treated as a normal working day and anyone caught feasting, not working or partaking in any other kinds of celebration would have to pay a fine of about five shillings (Belk Materialism 76 ). Although the law was repealed in 1681, Christmas continued to be ignored in much of New England S tores and other businesses remained open, there were no church services, and people continued normal day to day activities. It was not until the late ninet eenth century that Christmas found a new unity (Golby and Purdue 3 8 ). While Puritans condemned the C hristmas celebration by banning the religious observance and communal festivities many other settlers from Europe did not share their hostile attitudes. In the colonies near New York City, in Pennsylvania, and in the Southern colonies both religious and folk celebrations were customary in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Barnett 9). In some settlements Christmas, although widely celebrated by ma ny colonists, maintained little importance collectively because of the religious and cultural diversity that could be found in each geographic location (Restad 9). Many of the folk traditions associated with Christmas came to America from England, Holland, and Germany (Barnett 9). These settlers attended morning church services and emphasized celebratory customs with their families by ( Barnett 9). For the colonists that acknowledged and celebrated Christmas, the holiday season usually started before December 25 th and lasted till about January 6 th which is comparable to other Christian holidays, such as Easter, which can last from a few days to several weeks (The Easter Festival 62) During this time, people began to
4 ac knowledge the celebration with holiday greetings to fami ly, friends, and even strangers (Barnett 9). Many customs associated with Christmas were brought to America between 1620 and 1800 Christmas tr ee, and even holiday decorating (Barnett 11 12). By informal means ons spread throughout the colonies resulting in some communal variation (Barnett 12). was the name given to the excitement and rowdiness associated with the Chr almost always males, gathered to shoot off firecrackers and guns, paraded with musical instruments, call [sic] from house to house in garish disguise, and beg [sic] for food and drink on Caroling, which cons isted of both religious and folk songs about the Christmas season, was a folk custom that became popular during the Christmas season in the colonies. Christmas gifts were not emphasized by early colonists although some children receive d small gifts. The Dutch colonists that settled in New Amsterdam brought the tale of St. Nicholas to nia brought the tradition of the Christmas tree to America in the eighteenth century, and during the nineteenth century Christmas tre e s became very popular throughout many parts of America (Barnett 11). To the European settlers who celebrated Christmas, Ch
5 By the nineteenth century, the popularity of Christmas greatly increased, which was notably demonstrated by the legal declaration of December 25 th as a holiday in all states and territories between 1836 and 1890 starting with Alabama (Barnett 19 20 ). The formal recognition of the holiday demonstrat es the demise of hostility by Puritans to the holiday and perhaps their eventual acceptance of Christmas a s a that the legal recognition accorded December 25 th was a sign of an emerging national self consciousne ss which found symbolic expre ssion in the Christmas festival (Barnett 21). This idea is further demonstrated by the fact that many states recognized Christmas as a legal holiday during the Civil War when a sense of national identity and unity was amplified (Barnett 21). By the end of the nineteenth century, several elements of Christmas had combined into a celebration of immense recognition and social importance. The growing importance of Christmas in America is considerably reflected in businesse commercial In the latter part of the nineteenth century, merchants and retailers began to realize the commercial potential in holidays, exploited them with sales and advertising, and took the l ead in promoting them (Schmidt, Commercialization 890). With the exploitation of Christmas, many folk aspects of the holida y have been popularized at the cost of its spiritual significance (Barnett 100). This increase in folk aspects is seen in the increased importance of gift giving, which has been promoted through advertising and increased significantly with the rise of department stores as the hub for the holiday market G ift giving was rarely practiced by early colonists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Children occasionally received small presents, but Christmas was never associated with gift giving during this time (Barnett 10). as more common because
6 of Old World pagan traditions of gift exchange at th e end of the year (Schmidt, Commercialization 890). Many believe that the shift in New Year s to Christmas gift giving was due to the appeal toward familial intimacy and security that Christmas gifts represented as well as the desire to consecrate the act by comparing gift giving to biblical stories, such as the story of (Schmidt, Consumer Rites 124). In colonial America, the earliest testimony of gift giving comes from German immigrants in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in which a diary entry on December 25, 1745 received scarves, some a handkerchief, s ome a hat, some neckerchiefs, and some a few apples 65). Though gift giving was uncommon, American n old obligation of Christmas charity to the needy, and the wealthy contributed something for the holiday cheer of t he working classes and the poor (Barnett 10). Usually gift giving was not reciprocal and those of higher status gave gifts to those of lowe r status. As the American social and economic structure began to shift in the antebellum period, old traditions of gift giving changed as well. Eventually, gift giving became reciprocal between friends, family, and neighbors (Restad 6 6 ). rketplace, charged with an unprecedented abundance of good and money to 67). By the late nineteenth century the custom of gift giving spread significantly, primarily by re tailers, to all parts of the United States and became a traditional seasonal practice of adults and children (Barnett 80). To merchants and shopkeepers, the growing custom of gift giving meant the chance to increase profits. Before 1880 Americans tended to exchange handmade gift items, but because of rapid industrialization and the appearance of many attractive new types of manufactured items in the national market there was a large decline in the popularity of handcrafted gifts (Waits 17).
7 Department stores also aided in the shift from home made gift s to store bought gifts. For Materialism 90). Shopkeep ers quickly learned to anticipate needs for holiday gifts and during the holiday they began to increase their stock with Bostonian man in 1842 commented that the shops were filled at this season with every kind of tasteful article to attract one for Christmas gift s and gift giving began to emerge and further popularize d the custom of giving, specifically manufactured goods The first advertisements for Christmas gifts began in the early nineteenth century although they were not widespread. First instance, in a Philadelphia newspaper, American Daily Advertiser from about 1800 to 1820, Christmas hymn and religious poems were more prevalent and occupied more space than the few advertisements for holiday presents ( Schmidt, Consumer Rites 122) The first explicit advertisement for Christmas gifts was in Salem, Massachusetts in 1806 that simply in a newspaper by a local book store (Waits 134). Other advertisements began to run in local newspapers, such as the N ew York Evening Post ndred s consisting of toys, childrens [sic] and school books, Christmas pieces, Drawing books, Paint, Lead Pencils, Conversations and Toy 135). Though commercial presents were first publicly advertised in the first two decades of the nineteenth century, advertising became more prevalent in the 1820s and after As time passed advertisements became more sophisticated and newspapers began to place the Chri stmas advertisements in separate sections often entitled
8 Christmas advertisements began to appear earlier and earlier in the season to encourage consumers to shop early (Waits 136) Most advertisements were geared toward children, which was evident as many ads mentioned toys and featured folk characters, such as Santa Claus. Aggressive advertising tactics were more predominant during economically hard times. During the end of 1839, Americans experienced the most sev ere depression yet, but merchants continued to use Christmas to attract shoppers (Waits 137). Newspapers represented the ld be replaced by a new compassionate figure, Santa Claus (Wait 137). Many people tried to persuade readers to ignore economic hard times by 137). Though the main role of advertising was to promote shopping, it also served as a way to significance, and human values that giving The custo m of gift giving and the commercialization of Christmas were also amplified by the emergence and growth of department stores beginning in the 1870s. simple dry goods establishments of antebellum America, the department stores grew afte r the Civil War into the behemoths of modern retailing, major bulwarks in the skylines of urban Christianity par. 12). As department stores gained more popularity, they seemed displacement as the new cathedrals of urban America and as new centers of holiday celebration (Schmidt, Christianity par. 11). Department stores were one of the greatest promoters of Christmas especially since many Christian
9 sectors at this time remained anti materialistic, still identifying with the Puritan rejection of an excessively celebrated and adorned Christmas (Schmidt, Christianity par 12). During the late nineteenth century, department stores began to promote gift giving and shopping heavily. Department stores led the way with daily full page newspaper advertisements that were both innovative and vivid. Window displays D epartment St ore, also became a popular way to advertise and promote gifts for the holidays. People would gather around extravagant displays to see the latest merchandise that was available in stores, specifically around the holiday season. By the mid mas displays one of the institutions of the season, people that the sidewalks were often difficult to walk through (Schmidt, Consumer Rites 160). Each year was bigger and better than the last and s exhibited $10,000 worth of imported dolls in a Christmas window display ( Belk Materialism 90). Department store trade journals soon compiled the Consumer Rites 161). Today, elaborate window displays continue to draw an audience of 7000 consumers per hour during the holiday season ( Levins, par. 1 ) Not only were stores decorated externally, but they were also extravagantly decorated internally often filled with Christian symbols, including crosses, organs, religious paintings, stained glass, architectural style, giving; such displays bathed both the stores and holiday shopping in the reflected glory of Consumer Rites 161). Department stores were instilled with a sacramental qual ity and were often referred to as cathedrals (Schmidt, Christianity par. 13). One of the most evident example s of Christian symbolism in a department store was in the twelve story For founder John Wanamaker who was a Presbyterian
10 Consumer Rites 162). The department store contained a Grand Court that was transformed into a the centerpiece of the store at Christmas time. The re was religious caroling twice a day along with detailed keys to the stores decora tions, which included a replica scene of the Nativity, flags of the Crusades, statues of angels, and religious tapestries (Schmidt, Consumer Rites 163). Many people found the decorations breathtaking and some men even removed their hats upon entering the store in reverence (Schmidt, Christianity par. 25). During a time when Christmas was becoming more secular, Christianity par. 25). they traded in their religious symbolism for more secular and folk symbols includ ing reindeer, candy canes, Santa Claus, and snowmen. Further commercialization indirectly influenced by department stores and advertising was as opposed to ordinary money (Belk Materialism 90). Christmas Club accounts were established in Pennsylvania in 1905 by a local shoe factory own er who pushed workers to deposit some of the ir earnings each week into a separate account for Christmas presents, in which they would get all the money back two weeks before Christmas (Waits 29). Eventually, n oninterest bearing Christmas Clubs were establi shed in banks during the 1910s so that bank customers could save for Christmas presents without the affliction of receiving unnecessary interest on their savings (Belk Materialism 91). Although banks were not necessarily profiting off of Christmas Clubs, they agreed to introduce them in order to attract customers. By 1912, the
11 clubs were instituted in over 800 banks and by 1934, in a population of 124 million, one out of ten Americans had a Christmas Club account (Waits 29). A survey in 1950 revealed that Christmas Club members planned to use about 38 percent of their savings to purchase gifts, which amounted to more than 365 million dollars made available through the agency of Christmas Clubs that year (Barnett 85). The amount of savings demonstrates the tribute to the presented such a successful means of Barnett 85 ). Santa Claus may be seen as performing a similar sacralizing function so that gifts to children are not seen as things that parents have purchased in the same way that they purchase ordinary goods and services (Belk Materialism 91). The increasing popularity of a secular, folk Christmas in the nineteenth century and forward is evident in t he emergence and formalization of Santa Claus. It is not surprising that Santa Claus became such a predominant folk fixture in department stores as well as a vital part of American Christmas tradition including the tradition of gift giving Often referred to as the the image of Santa Claus appears during the holiday season in shopping malls, department stores, charitable solicitations, plays, advertising, decorations, etc ., which demonstrates his commercial appeal, specifically to children His historic origins and his Today, Sant a people believe that Christmas only survives because he represents a focus for those who do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday (Belk, 94). Whether considered a
12 sacred or secular figure, Santa Claus has been has been described as the in which his presence is well known globally (Hall 60). There have been many figures in European history that have been compared to the modern, American vers ion of Santa Claus. Such figures include the Dutch Sinterklass, English Father Christmas, French Pere Noel, Swedish Santa Lucia, Russian Babushka, Italian Befana Spanish Three Kings, etc., but these mythological characters bear little resemblance to the American Santa Claus (Belk, 87). Though Santa Claus is a creation of likeness most resemble s the Christi a n saint, St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was a historical figure who served as Bishop of Myra in the Eastern Church during the fourth century and was later canonized in the ninth century (Barnett 24). He was said to have performed miracles, including raising th e dead, as well as donating to his anonymous charities (Belk Materialism 77). It is also said that St. Nicholas would throw bags of gold through the windows of poor girls to pay for their dowries thus preventing them from being sold into slavery or prost itution which is where he gets his reputation for his generosity (Krythe 259). On the anniversary of his death, December 6 th children were told that the saint would come to their homes during the evening, dressed in a red bishop robe and riding on a horse to distribute gifts to children who had been well behaved (Krythe 259). Because Martin Luther, a German priest who initiated t he Protestant Reformation, opposed the practice of gifts being given to children on behalf of St. Nicholas, he introduced Christkindlein, a messenger of Christ, as a gift bearer (Belk Materialism 77). Christkindlein, who later became known as Kris Kringle because of mispronunciation, became another modification brought to America by protestant immigrants from northern Europe (Belk Materialism 78).
13 The Dutch who settled to New Amsterdam, or New York, were the first to bring the idea of St. Nicholas as a gift giver in the seventeenth century (Barnett 25). With the arrival of the English in America, the original celebration of Christmas, December 25 th and December 6 th merged and eventually St. Nicholas was acknowledged on December 25 th (Krythe 259). Though St. Nicholas was loved by children as a mystical gift bringer, adults celebrated the festive day by eating and drinking in merriment. Ultimately, the invention of Santa Claus depended on adults to continue and embellish it. Although t hese European Christmas fig ures have influenced the modern American Santa Claus, the American Santa Claus is more than an mixture of these Materialism 78) The American perception seen in department stores an d in advertising of Santa Claus as a plump, jolly character with a white beard and red suit is most heavily influenced by Clement illustrations of Santa Claus (Belk Materialism 79). with folk attributes, which initiated the first step in the transition from St. Nicholas to the current Santa Claus (Barnett 27). Moore used the names St. Nicholas and Santa Claus i nterchangeably as (Barnett 27). His description of Santa Claus was small, elfish, and dressed in fur as opposed to bishop robes. Moore also introduced the eight reindeer and sleigh that would magically fly through the sky on December 24 th Christmas E ve, delivering gifts to well behaved children (Belk, 87). Although Moore was an ordained minister, there is no refere nce to the Nativity in his poem. After the publication of American artists began to visually depict the character of Santa Clau s; such artists included German born American Thomas Nast.
14 Thomas Nast illustrated several versions of Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly published between 1863 and 1886 ( Belk, ristmas 87). images are considered the earlies t representations of the modern, secular Santa Claus ( Nast portrayed bearded, jolly, dressed in rich furs, and as the bearer of abundant gifts of 87). The image was partially influenced by but represents the overall consensual image of Santa that is still relevant today a by excluding religious symbols, such as bishop robes, headdresses, and staffs (Belk, 87). Today, Santa Claus has a distinct life story that helps solidify his presence as a folk hero. Santa Claus lives with Mrs. Claus in the North Pole where elves make toys for all the good children of the world and on Christmas eve, he delivers all the toys all around the world by an eight reindeer drawn slei gh that magically flies through the air (Belk, 89). When he arrives at each house, he enters though the chimney leaving gifts and treats in cont inues to the next house (Belk, 89). This tale of Santa Claus usually acts as the focus of numerous advertisements and other media, the center of attention at malls. Commercially, advertisers and m erchandisers have used the image of Santa Claus to attract consumers. In order to attract buyers, many department stores place advertisements that Santa Claus (Barnett 33). Some department stores have established special telephone lines so that children can talk to Santa Claus (Barnet 33). Santa Claus began to become a spo k esperson for
15 numerous products, such as Coca Cola toys, and even cigarettes, during the holiday season. Journal and Saturday Evening Post By 1940, the image of Santa Cl aus became so popular in advertising, that one magazine credited him with yearly sales of $500,000, publi c through the exploitation of a great deal of whimsical pap which has ceased to have any advertising eventually led to his physical appearance in stores. Althou gh Santa Claus is an important figure in American society during the holiday season, there are many people who criticize his existence as a central folk figure. Primarily, many people feel that Santa Claus represents both hedonism and materialism and takes attention 94). A reverend will crowd out their children about mythical Claus is a modern representation of the heathen god Nimrod who is a defiant hater of God and e Anti people faced was the threat of a secularized Christmas. John Stackhouse, a professor of religion at the University of Manitoba, agrees that Santa Claus is a secular figure, but feels that necessarily make the entire holiday secular stating, o mean `saint' anymore. But it's a little like what C.S. Lewis thought about fairy tales. He
16 thought they kee p alive a sense of awe or wonder in the world. Santa Claus is like that, too. A source of awe and wonder -and in a two dimensional, materialistic culture, that's not a bad thing (Woodard, par. 4) Other critics are concerned with the idea of teaching chil dren through Santa Claus to Christmas 95). This idea is emphasized by the requests that children make for gifts in their letters to Santa Claus. In one study of chi it was found that i n all cases children asked for only material items in the 855 letters sent to Santa that arrived in the Seattle post office in 1978 (Belk, 93). In a study by Marilyn R. Bradbard, she found th at children often received more gifts then requested, especially in preschool children who requested an average of 3.4 toys and received an average of 11.6 toys for Christmas (Belk, Christmas 93). Some people believe that the socialization of children through Santa Claus teaches children to take on their roles as American consumers (Belk, 95). We are often taught that happiness can be bought through items and that when we are good we can reward our selves or others with material gifts. Although there is not a specific time or place of the modern Santa Claus myth supports those who see the late nineteenth ce ntury America as the birthplace of consumer culture (Belk, 96) The m igration of Christmas to mainstream popular culture through commercialization is seen through representations in art and other forms of media The controversy over th e Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto exhibit influence of Christmas on art and advertising. The exhibit featured 26 oil painting of Santa Claus painted by Haddom Sundblom, an artist who was commissioned to paint for Coca Cola during
17 the 1930s to 1950s for their advertising campaigns during Christmas time (Belk, Materialism 76). Most of the images are emotional illustrations of Santa Claus drinking a bottle of Coca Cola. The Coca Cola Corporat ion lent the painting to the Royal Ontario Museum, advertised for the exhibit, and offered discount coupons for the exhibit with purchases of their products (Belk, Materialism 76). People were infuriated that a prominent institution would have an exhibit t hat Materialism 76). The exhibit curator mass media to shape culture and Materialism 76). advertisements have helped shape the modern image of Santa Claus that is depicted today It was only a matter of time before Christmas sprea d to different outlets of entertainment, including the film industry. These films ultimately introduced new stories based on past themes and further simplified the complicated issues of Christmas materialism and Christmas spirit (Restad 164). One of the most iconic Christmas stories made into a film is Miracle on 34 th Street (1947) existence of Santa Claus but also proves that there is no conflict between the spirit of Christ mas The underlying theme of the story demonstrates that both the tale of Santa Cla motivated business can function and prosper together during the holiday season which further demonst rates how folk figures have helped spread commercialization Miracle on 34 th Street is a creative and inventive endeavor to exploit the popular Christmas themes and symbols while also fighting the disbelief in Santa Claus. The ving Day Parade, which during the time of the movie s conception marked the beginning of the American Christmas
18 shopping season (Belk, Materialism 92). commercial rivalry between the heads of two competing stores and causes a spirit of helpfulness It is evident by now that the Christ mas season is more than a religious celebration of ; it is an American pastime in which the market becomes saturated with different ways to promote the holiday. The commercialization of Christmas is embedded in the bu siness nature of our econo my, which is stimulated by the need to make profits. Business promotion in the form of advertising decorations, music, and parades has become the precursor of each Christmas (Barnett 85). To further understand the modern American Christmas, it is importan t to discuss the marketing mix that marketing managers use to promote the holiday. The marketing product, and price. During and before the Christmas season, department stores, retail stores, and shopping malls become the main venue to solemnize the Christmas season. Every Christmas season consumers flock to are popular that year. Each year advertisers come up with new and innovative ways to attract consumers to buy products and promotions for Christmas shopping begin s earlier each year to prepare consumers for the holiday season. R etailers continually try to outdo one another with competitive prices in order to have a competitive advantag e in the market. No matter what form of promotion retailers use, it is evident that commercial exploitation of Christmas is rewarding economically. In modern American culture, the marketplace seems to serve as the primary stage for Christmas preparation. As previously mentioned, retailers provide the main source of products during the Christmas season. One example that demonstrates the importance of retail store s during the holiday season is when George and Barbara Bush went to J.C. Penney during a highly
19 publicized shopping trip the day after Thanksgiving in 1991 to buy Christmas gifts (Schmidt, Christianity par. 1). The visit of the president and his wife to the department store acted as a way C hristianity par. 1). Schmidt Schmidt, Christianity par. 1). Manufacturers and distributors also play an important part in getting products, especially toys, to consumers Until 1923, the United States would import more toys than they exported from countries such as Germany, Japan, and Czechoslovakia (Barnett 89). Between 1923 and 1947, there was a reversal in position and the United States began to export over five times the amount of toys imported into the country (Barnett 89). It is estimated now that over one half of ne during the Christmas season (Barnett 89). Next, promotion of products and the Christmas gift giving spirit is severely exaggerated over the holiday season. One of the most iconic promotions to kick off the holiday season began e catalyst for Christmas shopping. Each year the parade held in New York City is seen b y millions of people and at the end of the parade the final float exhibits Santa Claus who signals the beginning of the commercial Christmas shopping season (Barnett 16 2). the day after Thanksgiving which got its name because it is the day that retailers hope to turn (Clifford, For Retailers par. 3) Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. On this day, many retailers open their stores very early and some put their merchandise up for sale in store or online. A survey in 2010 by the National Retail Federation f ound that the average amount spen t per person from Thanksgiving to the end of the weekend was about $365 (
20 The most shopped for items are usually electronics and toys, which are usually significantly discounted to entice shoppers to shop at their stores. Advertisers place circulars in locate the best deals. It seems as if every year Christmas promotions begin earlier ; this phenomenon is often refer Zmuda par. 1). For instance, in 2010 Best Buy began its holiday campaigns on November 1st, ten days earlier than in their 2009 promotions ( Zmuda par. 2). Even earlier Christmas promotions were seen in 2008 by K Mart their Christmas promotions the Friday before Halloween ( Zmuda par. 6). Next, in order to gain profits during the Christmas season, companies must compete by creating innovative products to sell o n the market. These new popular products that come out items of the season s of the season? One would think that the most popular items of the season are the items that are the most innovative an en president, Theodore Roosevelt. During a hunting trip, Roosevelt found a bear that his colleagues had tied to a tree in order to improve his shot (Klara, par. 8). Roosevelt decided to free the bear and the story of his kind heartedness became highly publi cized by newspapers. After the incident, a Brooklyn merchant, Morris Mitchom, wrote to Roosevelt and asked if he could use his name on his toy bears (Klara, par. 8). It s eems that over the years, there are always a few items that are successful on the market and all it takes is the right publicity to ignite demand. For instance, some of the biggest
21 selling toys over the past couple decades during the Christmas season were not necessarily the most technologically advanced, but were highly publicized. These toys include Cabbage Patch Kids in 1984, Tickle Me Elmo in 1996, and Furby in 1998. Cabbage Patch Kids originated in Georgia and were relatively unknown until public figu res, such as Amy Carter and Burt Reynolds, were seen with the dolls (Klara, par. 7). Producers of the NBC variety show, Real People then filmed a spot, and after that the dolls eventually became one the biggest selling items the industry had ever seen (Kl ara, par. 7). A similarly popular item that arose in 1996 was par. 6). The makers of Tickle Me Elmo, Mattel, originally did not anticipate that the item would be a bi g seller, but the toy became an enormous success and began selling out of stores after publicized by the media was the innovative toy named Furby that became the must have item for Christmas in 1998. The toy, which was originally intended for a tech savvy audience appeared in Time magazines Techwatch department and continued to become publicized by newspapers and television programs and eventually become one of the h ottest items in the United States (Klara, par. 5). Today, items such as Ereaders and smart phones are becoming the must have items for the increasingly tech savvy generation. In order to retain a competitive advantage during the holiday season, retailers must compete with one another based on price. Because of all the Christmas sales, consumers have learned to only b u y merchandise that is on sale. capture that first or second purchase, they may find themselves with a lot of inventory the week Sherif Mityas, a partner in the retail practice at the consultin g firm A. T. Kearney (Clifford, Why Wait? par. 5).
22 Today, retailers have found new ways to promote low prices and discounts through the Internet and by using mobile phones to access coupons and to download applications that lets you compare prices on items Cyber Monday, a spinoff of Black Friday, is a day in which online retailers provide discounts and deals through their websites. Cyber Monday tends to target a Inte ). Many people believe that the growth in holiday sales will continually increase due to online sales, especially since we live in a fast paced environment where consumers generally have l ess free time (Belsie, par. 11). Since consumers have become very price sensitive during the holiday season, technology is making it easier to compare prices. For example, smart phones have developed applications to compare prices of products on the spot. Applications such as RedLaser and ShopSavvy, which are available on smart phones such as the iPhone, Android, etc., allow consumers to scan products bar codes with the phone's camera to get prices and product reviews from other retailers ( Gerstner par. 4). As the holiday continues to become overshadowed by commercial endeavors, many Americans believe that these comm ercial aspects are wiping out its traditional importance. Many people feel that the holiday has turned into a festival for buying, selling, giving, and receiving gifts. As a result, many feel threatened that the meaning of Christmas has been obscured by co mmercial feats. Since the beginning of the gift giving tradition, there has been complaints about the effect s of merchandising, specifically how the marketplace has made Christmas Schmidt, Consumer Rites 182). For example, even in 1894 the Sunday School Advocate commented on the excessive adornments of holiday
23 Cons umer Rites 182). Many people believe that gift giving has turned into a way to display social status instead of promoting social unity and charity. Although consumers would like to blame advertising and retailers for the materializing the holiday, it is co nsumers who ultimately give in to the inviting, extravagant displays that (Belk, Materialism 95). In addition, many fear that Christmas has become secular and has l ost its purpose, which is to celebrate the birth of the Christian Savior. Some even have gone so far as to create bumper of feasting, drinking, and celebrating in pre Christian winter festivals such as the Roman Saturnalia continued The increase in the secularization is reflected in the decline in religious influences in American culture although church membership has remained steady with population growth (Barnett 57). Overall, because holidays, such as Christmas, contain such an array of beliefs, traditions, and symbols for people a major celebration (Barnett 58). In conclusion, Christmas is one of the most important religious h olidays as well as the greatest commercial holiday in American society. The increasing significance of the holiday is seen through religious observance as well as the commercial exploitation of the holiday depicted in advertising, retail, and mass media. The commercialization of Christmas is not a new phenomenon and began as early as the seventeenth and eighteenth century when merchants
24 discovered the eco nomic opportunities that could be gained from exploiting holidays. As stated Christianity par. 18). Although many are opposed to the commercial ization and secularization of the holiday, even anti commercialization campaigns such as shirts and proves that the commercial ization of Christmas is inevitable (Schmid t, Christianity par. 19).
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