Christmas Commerce Gone Wild
Big retailers in the United Kingdom during the holiday seasons have much to look forward to as the clock counts down to Christmas - long queues, holiday compensation for overtime staff, snow, Christmas markets, but most of all, roasting chestnuts in a warm crackling flame gently roaring in the chimney shoot. But besides the feeling of closeness and merry making among family and mates, the sound of cold hard plastic being swiped into cash registers cha-ching in the back drop on regular intervals. Consumers in the UK are no strangers to busting open their checkbooks and breaking their limiting budget constraints to spend freely and openly on gifts, food, decorations, and Christmas trees.
The Extreme Commercial Phenomenon
Christmas Spending to Hit Record in the UK
In England, Brits are projected to splurge £77.56 billion this Christmas. Per household by the end of this year, the average spend for Christmas will be £809.97. The draping blue Christmas lights hanging over the sprawling streets of Oxford Circus has a multi-functional aspect, acting like a magnet attracting holiday shoppers like flies to a burning light. Adjacent shopping venues the likes of Selfridges, Urban Outfitters and American Apparel make like an all you can shop buffet for the holiday feasters that gather there from all over the world - a sight worthy of an international flight from across the world.
A single shopper in the UK is projected to spend £473.83 on gifts, £223.55 on food and drink (butter beer anyone?), £83.43 on holiday travel, and £29.16 on decorations. Online spending this coming Christmas is predicted to be 12.9% higher than actual spendings on online Christmas spendings last Christmas. A whopping £20.966 billion will be spent this year on Christmas shopping online. This cultural drive for gift giving has such a high priority for people that 35% of British persons admit to borrowing money to pay for the gifts that they bought in 2015.
In the UK, vendors that carry real Christmas trees in aggregate sell 8 million trees every single year. The greeting card market has also much to profit on Christmas - nine hundred million Christmas cards are sold per year, a total that’s worth £200 million in sales. Charities in the UK also see a spike in donations, receiving an estimated £50 million in sales from a simple item like Christmas cards! ‘Tis the season, alright.
What is stunning about this consumerist culture that has gone apparently mad is that despite all the expenditure, effort and energy put into gift giving the average person expends for Christmas each year, there is an incredible £2.6 billion market worth of unwanted gifts that adults in the UK reported to have received. Indeed, the commercialization and commoditization of Christmas has become a culture worthy of the title “madness.”
Speaking of madness born from a consumerist culture gone awry, over 4 million Christmas dinners are thrown away each year in the UK. The number of Christmas dinners thrown out equates to about £64 million worth of food. With this staggering amount in tossed food, why are there still people going hungry?
The American Christmas Madness
Over on the United States’ side of the pond, almost all Americans celebrate Christmas - 94% of Americans celebrate the day. Christmas in that dominantly secular society has become more of a consumption driven cultural phenomenon rather than a holy day celebrating the birth of a saint. From buying gifts and food to buying decorations for the house, Americans go absolutely mad with shopping during the Christmas season. The holidays there are the time for uncontrolled shopping - storefronts and online shops flashing % off deals and $$$ off this time of year.
The Obama family is no exception to lavish spendings for the house - the White House will be decorated with sixty three Christmas trees this year.
Holiday retail sales in the United States are expected to amount to $655.87 billion dollars this year. This projected number is 3.7% higher than the actual Christmas Madness spendings reported to have been spent in 2015. Americans got ahead of themselves this year, what with 1 million of them reporting to have already finished their Christmas shopping duties in September - four months ahead of schedule!
Americans plan to spend an average of $830 on Christmas gifts by the end of this year. This year’s per capita spending on gifts alone is 15.3% more than the per capita expenditures of 2015. 30% of Americans estimate that they will spend more than $1000 on gifts this year - a number similar to how much Brits are projected to spend this year.
Americans spend six times more money on gifts than they do on food. The money spent on a single Christmas shopping season adds up to about a quarter of all personal expenditures an average American will spend in an entire year.
American greeting card vendor Hallmark and other chain drugstores make a killing when it comes time for harvest time - 2 billion Christmas cards are sent in the US each year. That’s a whole lot of paper flying off the shelves reminding loved ones to be sure to have a “Merry Christmas.” 85% of those sending those friendly “reminders” are women. 53% of Americans prefer the classic “Merry Christmas” greeting above other variations.
It appears that doing good and the spirit of giving back runs at all time highs in the holidays - Christmas is the biggest season for non-profit organizations. 38% of Americans are more likely to donate to fundraising campaigns during the spirit of Christmas.
Christmas - religion or culture?
For some countries, Christmas is a sacred day birthed from the canals of mainstream religion. For other countries that have moved into secularized society, the once holy day has been relegated to a “cultural” celebration reminiscent of a once significant sacred day. Regardless of country however, Christmas is regarded as both a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.
For Christians though - we all know the story - Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The first ever recorded time in history when Christmas was celebrated on December 25th was in A.D. 336. Jesus’s exact birth date is much debated however, as it is neither known nor confirmed. The executive decision made in the years Before Christ which Christians have settled on was the 25th of December to celebrate the birth of Christ for lack of a definitive date.
The commercial component of Christmas as a cultural celebration rather than a religious celebration would come much later. Children growing up in the United Kingdom, United States and in many other countries have been opening up Christmas presents on Christmas day as a tradition since societies grew into modernization. However, certain countries with strong religious affinities that compete with Christianity would prohibit the celebration of Christmas. Countries like Saudi Arabia deem December 25th as just another day; it should be nothing special. Jesus who?
Countries like the United States, however, celebrate Christmas as one of its most celebrated holidays, granting its working class several days, even weeks of vacation days - or paid time off. Get paid to sit at home and eat milk and cookies? Yes, please. The Christmas season in the United States is looked upon as a holiday to look forward to. It has become less about the birth of Jesus Christ and more about the time people get off from having to go to work. More than that, it has become a time that marketers have successfully garnered into becoming about a time to receive gifts, as mentioned earlier. The tradition of celebrating December 25th as an official federal holiday in the United States has been enacted since 1870, about a century after the colonization of the then nascent colony.
Who Doesn’t Love the Christmas Traditions?
The word “Christmas” has gradually become synonymous with such activities as gift giving, Christmas tree decorating, family get togethers, sharing traditional meals around a candle-lit table, Santa Claus, and church events. Clearly, the focus on Christmas has detracted away from the historically religious aspect and has moseyed toward a more personal, familial aspect.
As early as months or weeks in advance of Christmas time, people are already starting to pick out their Christmas trees of perfect fit for a prime spot in their homes. The activity widely linked to modern Christmas tradition is decorating the Christmas tree that families have brought home. Thirty to thirty five million real Christmas trees are sold annually in the United States alone. Because there is such a substantial demand for these needly trees every season, there is an estimated twenty one thousand farms in the United States that specialize in growing Christmas trees. It takes 15 years to grow one Christmas tree.
As children grow up and out of their parents’ homes, family time together gets to be a more precious time. And when the holidays come around, sharing meals with family and friends becomes one of those time treasured activities that family members look forward to. Christmas dinner is one of the most important pillars of a Christmas celebration. Americans and Brits similarly gather around a perfectly roasted Christmas turkey. Over on the Finnish side, Finns enjoy a traditional oven-baked ham for Christmas dinner. Australians, being south of the equator as they are, enjoy a BBQ under the sun.
Waiting for Santa Claus to arrive is another common activity associated with the Christmas tradition. Whether or not this white lie that parents the world over tell their kids is healthy or not is a topic up for discussion in a separate article. Another very popular activity associated with the Christmas tradition is attending church. Last year, 2.5 million people in England reported to have attended churches for Christmas.
Santa Claus - Who is He?
Ah, the infamous Mr. Claus - our beloved gift dispensing, reindeer riding, red and white clad, silver bearded man - who is this international man of mystery anyway? Where does he come from? Why, he comes from a story, of course.
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle or Father Christmas, is a character born from a legend spread far and wide throughout Western culture. This fictional character was inspired by the real life historical figure named Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Christian saint, who was born in Turkey.
The legend that we all know goes as follows: Saint Nick is said to bring gifts to the homes of well behaved children on Christmas Eve and the early morning hours of Christmas Day. The man works fast over the course of twenty four hours with the aid of eight reindeer and an untold number of elves, better known as Santa’s Little Helpers. From the pace at which Saint Nick delivers all those gifts in such a small window of time, his sleigh must be pulled around the world at an average speed of 5,083,000 miles per hour. Does the fabled man really exist? Well, if he moves at this ninja-like speed, we could never really confirm.
According to legend told in the US, Claus the Saint is believed to have his “headquarters” in the North Pole. But depending on where a kid grows up, Santa Claus is told to live in different locations. According to legend told in the UK and other countries, Santa’s headquarters are in Lapland, Finland. If Santa were Finnish, he would live in the town of Korvatunturi. The Santa Claus Main Post Office is situated at the Arctic circle in the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi.
Of course, we here at BargainFox are here to hook you up with the deets. If you want to connect with the one and only bearded man himself, Saint Nick’s address is:
Santa Claus' Main Post Office, Santa Claus Village, FIN-96930 Arctic Circle.
How to Not Go Bankrupt During the Holiday Season
Other tips we think are valuable to arm you with over the holidays is the ammunition against going broke for the upcoming holidays. By creating a Christmas budget, you can avoid that depressing post-Christmas overspending blues, or better known as shopper’s regret.
No matter what your budget is, make a plan ahead of time and stick to it:
- Determine how much to spend, what to buy and who to buy it for
- Start saving early and don’t spend what you don’t have - life is better without credit card interest rates
- DIY - who doesn’t love something you’ve done with your own hands?
- Be an early bird - take advantage of the sales throughout the year and you can save a ton of money
- Buy online and use coupons - Bargainfox.co.uk offer great deals and coupon codes for the best online shops
10 Christmas Facts You Didn’t Know
- In the Middle Ages parties were more like today’s Mardi Gras - noisy and wild
- From 1659 to 1681 celebrating Christmas was illegal in Boston, law-breakers were fined five shillings
- The main dish in the Medieval Christmas dinners was Peacock - not turkey
- Candy Canes were originally invented to keep kids quiet in the church
- Christmas Dinner usually contains over 7,000 calories
- Paul McCartney’s Christmas Song, regarded as his worst song ever, earns him half a million dollars every year
- “Jingle Bells” was originally written for Thanksgiving, not Christmas
- The World's Biggest Snowman was was 113 ft tall, and - you guessed it - it was constructed in the state of Maine in United States, as the Imperial system of measurement reveals
- Christmas trees grow for 15 years before they are sold
- Many parts of the Christmas tree are edible - the needles are a great source of Vitamin C
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