Yes, retails exploit Christmas, but their decorations still kindle the good in the human spirit-

  • Sunday, 23 December 2018
  • Linda Chivell

retailers exploiting christmas
Christmas trees in the aisles. Shiny baubles hanging from the ceiling. Christmas carols playing on the in-store speakers. Tinsel all around the cash register.

Shops put a lot of effort into their Christmas decorations. It’s in their own interest to associate themselves with the celebration and to encourage shoppers to think spending up big is part and parcel of its enjoyment.

Is this obvious commercialisation of Christmas drowning out its true spirit?

Not necessarily.

Research found that seeing Christmas symbols – even a secular one – can evoke religious values in service contexts. Customers with a Christian upbringing become more forgiving of poor service they personally receive but also more judgemental of any poor service they when they see it happens to vulnerable others.

The religious spirit of Christmas

How does Christmas affect attitudes and behaviour? The word “Christmas” can evoke charitable behaviour, and Christmas displays even improve the mood of those who celebrate Christmas. The outdoor display of Christmas decorations makes a household appear more welcoming.
For people brought up in a household where Christmas was primarily a religious celebration, encountering a Christmas symbol reminds them of religious meanings and values irrespective of whether them still being a Christian.
The moral of the story is that the connections children in Christian households develop between Christmas and religion remain strong long after childhood.

Christmas time at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris.

Christmas time at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris. 

A double-edged sword

The mere presence of Christmas symbols, like a Christmas tree, was enough for people with a Christian upbringing to not being so harsh with their judgement of poor service.
They also become more concerned about the welfare of others after seeing a Christmas symbol. and will warn others about that poor service and to rather switch to another business.
Thus Christmas symbols represent a double-edged sword for retailers.

Christmas decorations for sale in a shop in Baghdad.

Christmas decorations for sale in a shop in Baghdad. Christians form about 5% of the population in Iraq. 

Other religious symbols

Christmas symbols are but one type of religious symbol.

Although stores may try to co-opt Christmas symbolism for commercial gain, it seems these symbols can not be completely disconnected from associations established by Christianity.

Sometimes, negative responses a customer feel after seeing a vulnerable person having to put up with poor service can result in the customer behaviour where the true spirit of Christmas really does soar higher than the firm’s self-interest.




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