Christmas, Economics, and The Holiday Spirit

It seems that in this Holiday Season, a lot of people I know didn't feel very much Christmas Spirit.   When I talked to them they said not only they didn't much "sense of the Holiday", but neither did many of their friends.  This seeming lack of a Yuletide enthusiasm had me curious, as such things appeal to my psychologist-side, but I couldn't find an answer  – until a talk with a  co-worker helped clear things up for me.

As my co-worker and I discussed this very lack of Holiday spark, we noticed two things that were different from last year:

  1. There was "no Thanksgiving" in the news.  As he put it, it seemed we went from Halloween to Black Friday.  I find Thanksgiving sets the mood for the Christmas season, and the thankful aspect goes nice with the giving aspect of Christmas.  This time the holiday was far less prominent in news and in stores.
  2. The news around the Holidays was constantly about economics – if people were spending, how much, what trends.  It was cold and serious, and often lacking in the craziness of what toy people were beating people up for or what kind of insane light display was distracting someone's neighbors.

Upon the realization of #2, something gripped me that was both wonderful and horrible.

The wonderful part was I realized that a lot of reporting around Christmas had been economic.  It had been about what people would or could spend, about businesses, about the Great Recession.  Yes, these were cold statistics, but the fact was they were all over the news – and people were apparently following them.  In short, people were paying attention to the economy this Christmas.

Why was that fact that people seemed to care about economics so fantastic to me?  Because people need to pay attention to economics for short-term and log-term survival.  Our long-term and short-term economic survival was badly threatened by the Great Recession, and these endless reports of statistics gave me faint hope that people might actually be following economic news more.

The horrible part of my realization?

The simple realization that this mainstreaming of economics came at the price of what little Christmas Spirit was left after massive commercialization.  What there was of the holiday charm and spirit that wasn't crushed in an orgy of consumerism and fads was lost admit the economic reports.  I was glad for more attention being paid to the economy – but I felt like it was the kind of final blow to any kind of real Holiday enthusiasm.

I also feel next Christmas will be more of the same.  It's all gone to being about the economy now, more than it ever was.

Steven Savage