The Commercialization of the Holidays

By Brendan O’Brien | December 1, 2022

Throughout the past decades, the holiday season in the United States has changed drastically. What was once a season focused on Advent and Christmas in a largely Christian nation has completely changed. Both consumers and firms alike have changed their approach to this time of the year. The lore surrounding Santa, his elves, and the North Pole has far surpassed the original meaning of Christmas and other religious holidays in the twenty-first century. The phenomenon of the holidays has grown to have tremendous meaning for almost all Americans, not just religious ones. A recent study conducted by CNBC found that 96% of Americans buy gifts for the holidays, with the average American spending over $1000 on gifts and holiday-related items. Holiday spending in the United States has risen over 25% from 2012 to 2020, soaring to over $766.6 billion. However, the holiday season in America was not always this way. Large corporations saw the golden opportunity that was laying in front of them, and they seized it, turning this time of year into something that could have never been suspected.

Retailers spent over $1.8 billion on advertising in Q4 of 2021, the holiday season, which was a 22 percent increase year over year. Firms have smelt the blood in the water, and every year seem to be in more of a frenzy to promote holiday spending to new levels. Retailers have taken advantage of this opportunity, creating new buying opportunities at every turn. What started with Black Friday and an opportunity to sell unwanted merchandise at discounted prices has blossomed into Cyber Monday, Prime Day, and an endless number of other promotional days dedicated to encouraging spending in the time leading up to the holiday season. This has led corporations even to go as far as to try and interfere with religious cultures for their own gain.

For centuries, Hannakah had always been a minor celebration on the Jewish calendar. However, after seeing the tremendous success with the commercialization of Christmas, mainstream marketers pushed to promote Hannakah and its place in the holiday season. They have been extremely successful, and now almost any item produced for Christmas has a Hannakah counterpart. Within the last decades, the same has become true for Kwanzaa as well, a holiday that celebrates African American culture in December. Kwanzaa was first introduced to African Americans primarily as an alternative to Christmas, and today is yet another opportunity for firms to promote holiday spending. America’s largest corporations have been incredibly successful in their quest to commercialize the holiday season, and they are showing no signs of slowing down.

Edited by Shiloh Fleming