Family, friends, gifting and food, these are the main things which people say makes ‘Christmas important to them’, at least according to a survey carried out by YouGov this time last year, on behalf of the British Humanist Association…
And less than 25% of the population seem to think religion is an important part of Christmas, at least as measured by the two questions in this particular survey (about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and attending a religious ceremony), both of which tap into whether people actually do anything ‘religiously active’ to celebrate the tradition.
Personally I’m inclined to think the results of this survey as valid, as this is an online survey (so anonymous) and people get to choose (NB the format of the above version varies slightly to how the original was administered!
The Social (Media) Construction of Christmas
Some oddball versions of the history of Christmas take it all the way back to the birth of someone called Jesus Christ, but the modern (real?) version of Christmas didn’t really start to take shape until the 19th Century….In other words Christmas is a social construction…
Goose was the popular choice for Christmas dinners for generations. Middle-class families with lots of relatives might go for a boar’s head, while the seriously rich showed off with a swan. The turkey really took off with the Victorians after Charles Dickens had Scrooge ordering a turkey in A Christmas Carol.
The mastermind behind the Christmas cracker was a London sweetshop owner called Tom Smith. In 1847, after spotting French bonbons wrapped in paper with a twist at each end, he started selling similar sweets with a “love motto” inside.
They were so popular as a Christmas novelty that Tom made them bigger and included a trinket. But the real flash of inspiration came when he poked the fire and a log exploded with a sharp CRACK! That gave him the idea for a package that went off with a bang. By 1900 he was selling 13 million a year.
The red robes, white beard, and booming ho-ho-hos we associate with Santa Clause has only existed since 1935, when this colour-combo was created Santa Claus for a Coca-Cola campaign.
In previous lives he was thinner and paler, a character based on a 4th Century Asian bishop called Nicholas, who became the patron saint of children in most of Europe. Different countries still have their own variations on the theme, but the coca-cola version has pushed them all to the cultural margins.
And personally, I can’t imagine Christmas without Christmas Movies, and especially Christmas Songs. I mean in one sense, Christmas didn’t really exist before 1986….
A Marxist Analysis of Christmas…
A broadly (read ‘simplified’) Marxist approach to Christmas would probably highlight the extent to which Christmas has been hijacked by Corporations to become hideously commercialized, with advertising basically manipulating us into spending money on shit we don’t need which puts us into debt and makes profit for Corporations.
An important part of this which links to the family is that Christmas is a key event which reproduces the norms of materialism and consumption – as kids come to expect lots of shit they don’t need. This also links very nicely (horrifically) into Toxic Childhood.
An excellent documentary which criticizes the commercialisation of Christmas is…..What Would Jesus Buy in which Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping ask the question ‘What Would Jesus Buy?’…
A Broadly Feminist Critique of Christmas
There is some scope for a Feminist Analysis of XMAS…
According to The Conversation, Christmas adverts come with the gift of gender stereotyping… with characters such as the overworked dad and the mischievous boy contrasted to the mum doing all the cooking and the fairy princess.
According to this Daily Mail Article, American women spend twice as much money as gifts on men, and according to this (earlier) article, the burden of Christmas tends to fall disproportionately on women
This all certainly seems to tie in with the gendered results from the BH survey above – women seem to be more involved with Christmas than men.
One final thing…. there is maybe a hint of frustration in the results of this survey from YouGov…. Is it Father Christmas, or Santa Claus? Of course men are more likely to the think the former, and women more likely the later…evidence of female frustration at the Patriarchy, or is that reading too much into it?!?
And Something Extra…
Black Lives Matter are currently calling on people to boycott a ‘white Christmas’, which basically involves not shopping with white corporations in order to divest them of money, and to invest in black shops by shopping only in them.