Commodified Holidays and Lost Priorities


As Easter has just passed,  it is important to evaluate how holidays of this sort are approached. Now, not everyone is religious, and those who are are not necessarily of the same faith. But, it can be noted that certain holidays, particularly those which are Christian are highly commodified in the Western world. 

Easter gets children amped for egg hunts and for mass chocolate consumption. All the while candy brands change their logos to pastel colors, inclining people who celebrate Easter to purchase their products. It is strange that Gen Z and the current youth grew up with such commodified holiday experiences. Their paternal and maternal generations certainly did not experience it to the same exaggerated degree. 

First year IE student Sophia Coriat is Jewish and also celebrated Catholic holidays with her mother’s side of the family when she was younger. “I grew up going to church on Easter, and obviously I was in the little kids section where they would host the egg hunt. But I do remember that Easter was a very important time for my mom because she was very religious. Her family would come and stay with us, and they would all go to church and they would all observe the holiday. When I was in this little kids’ section, they never really taught us about what the tradition is, or about what Easter is about,” Coriat said, testifying to the generational disparities in holiday experiences. 

Though, the increase in the commodification of holidays can most be seen in the US over other countries. Whether this is tied to the highly capitalistic economy and culture within the country is something unclear, but that would not be all too shocking. “As a Jew living in the United States, I feel like in the United States specifically the Christian holidays are extremely over-commodified. During Christmas all the music is playing everywhere, commercials everywhere, all of the [stores] say Christmas sales, and everything leads into buying gifts,” Coriat said. 

A holiday that is meant to entail time spent with family and community, turns into something oriented toward mass consumption. Coriat is half Venezuelan, half Colombian. “Whenever I celebrated Christmas at La Violeta, which is my grandparents’ farm house, it was always a lot of family time … it was very similar to how I would celebrate Hanukkah and so it was like everyone would sing songs and we would have a very family-oriented day,” Coriat said, “I think the fact that there are so many commercials surrounding Christmas it pushes people to buy more things and it makes people forget that the actual point of Christmas is to be spending time with your family,” she continued. 

The consumption that holidays now bring about is not only limited to the designated Holiday dates themselves, but also to the general season of each holiday. For example, November and December ads label the time as the “Christmas Season”. This is well timed in alignment with Thanksgiving in the US. The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, a day famous to shoppers for going all-out at their favorite stores. The following Monday is Cyber Monday, which brings about extensive sales to stores’ websites. Here is the final link in the chain: the ads that are shown for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales often display content related to their Christmas Season sales. It is a seamless profit and consumption maximizing effort. 

US commercialization is made out to be an endless cycle. “The commercials that they show for Black Friday are Christmas commercials that show off Christmas sales,” Coriat said, “Black Friday isn’t really a holiday, it is literally just ‘go buy things,’ but we turned it into a holiday. It is a ritual at this point.” 

All of this is not to say that these holidays must be celebrated in a strict traditional sense, but rather that a certain balance between gift giving and the essence of holidays such as Christmas has been lost over time. As mentioned, this drastic increase in consumption is most prevalent in the US, at least comparatively to Latin America. “It’s so strange to me how so many American families just open gifts on their own – they just pick gifts out of the tree. My grandpa would dress up as Santa Claus, sit in a chair, pick up a present, read who it is from and read who it is to, and we would all watch that one person open their gift. I feel like that is way warmer, it is a warm celebration. Because you’re experiencing that with that person as they are opening their gift,” Coriat said, depicting this distinction. 

Holidays outside of the US are not so affected by attempts to drive people towards mass consumption. The spirit of gift giving has gotten too entangled with corporate motives for profit.  It is necessary to reflect on the values that guide celebrations, to identify what healthy priorities are. It should be a goal to maintain warm traditions.

Featured image by AllThingsTarget

Eloise Dayrat
Eloise Dayrat
I am a first year LLBBIR student. I am Colombian and French, but grew up in the US. I am also lactose intolerant, but my breakfast is still yogurt every morning. Sometimes I order my coffee with oat milk in it to compensate. I love music and spend the entirety of my excessively long metro ride to IE discovering artists. I love to run – that is when I don’t have class at 8am. And, I like to write, particularly about politics, history, and social movements and relations.

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