Why Christmas Is a Marketing Success
I love Christmas. I really do. But that doesn’t mean I won’t honor you with my traditional politically-inconsiderate (if not politically-incorrect) marketing analysis of the holiday.
We all know that negative and frightening media sells, yet, year in and year out, we find ourselves swept into the Christmas spirit, even if we aren’t Christian and even if we don’t live in a Christian country? So I’ve checked out the numbers and it turns out that Christianity itself is a sweeping success, capturing more of the population in the world than any other religion. So it does make some sense that we heathens have been dragged into the thing.
There’s a lot to love about Christmas, but I think it’s mostly caught on because of the timing.
(Disclaimer: If you are the kind of person who is going to be offended, read something else. Or just check out these posts where I am politically incorrect about terrorism, Israel, and Hamas. I’m equal-opportunity offensive. If you don’t want to hear my take on Christmas, simply click the little x in your browser tab.)
I’m figuring the people who made the calendar were looking around at the contemporary religions and trying to figure out what would be good for their religion. At the time, the most popular religion was worshiping a variety of Roman gods, but the Christians might not have been big fans of that religion. As I understand it, the Romans and Jesus didn’t get along very well, though I have to wonder about that sometimes. I mean, crucifying people is generally considered bad form, but again, as I understand it, it was crucial that Jesus rise from the dead, and if I’m not mistaken, one needs to first be dead. I wouldn’t expect the son of god to die of natural causes, so maybe the Romans were doing everyone a favor. History certainly would be very different if that hadn’t happened, in any case. But I digress.
The point is, well, Jesus was a Jew, and probably at least some of his disciples were also, and they were probably familiar with how the Jews do the new year thing. They put new year a few days before “atonement” day. In short that means when the new year comes around, it’s time to reflect and ask forgiveness for all the bad things you did.
I have no doubt that Jesus’ birthday really was on December 25th, keeping in mind that, well, at the time he was born, there was no such thing as December. That was invented by the Christians, who apparently made the decision that the new year should not be exactly at Jesus’ birth, but six days later.
Being more upbeat than the Jews, and having the general attitude that Jesus had done the whole forgiveness thing for us, they had to come up with a better idea. So they just called it New Year, and that would be a good time to reflect and consider what great stuff you’ll do next year. Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men was pulled from the scriptures as the slogan, and it seemed to have universal appeal at the time. The other half of humanity was OK with it as well.
In the modern age, the new year is a good time to thank people, not just family, but also customers and business partners. It’s a good opportunity to renew contracts. Sending a nice greeting and perhaps some type of gift works out well with that. I’m certain this was not the original intention of the founders of Christmas, but it just worked out well. Over time, it was practically a requirement for businesses to create some kind of seasonal greeting card for their partners and customers.
And kids, well, you can’t get away with not getting a child a Christmas present. Parties abound for both Christmas and the new year. So the retailers have gotten behind Christmas and New Year’s in a big way, plastering the yuletide message everywhere.
None of that sounds very miraculous. But Christmas is miraculous, and I’m not referring to frankincense or myrrh.
What’s miraculous is that, despite the commercialization of Christmas, despite the obvious business benefits of Christmas, and despite the fact that the majority of people do not truly believe that the son of God was born on that day—despite all these things, or maybe because of them—the Christmas spirit has not just survived but prevailed and increased. In the age of social media, everyone with an internet connection knows it’s Christmas and everyone knows that means a time to celebrate, create and enjoy peace and goodwill.
It’s truly incredible when you think about what usually gets our attention, and what we’ve been taught. Marketers and journalists have been taught that pain sells. No pain is associated with all this good will and celebration.
It’s counterintuitive. In a world with so much going wrong, during this season, we take the time to focus on what’s going right, to enjoy one another, and to wish one another well in a genuine way. We do that, not as a religious rite or obligation, but as a race, as all of humanity. For one week of the year we not only speak, but feel, the things that connect us all as people.
Now there’s a sweeping marketing success: getting the message of peace and goodwill to spread throughout the world, simultaneously, on a specific day. And people complain that these days Christmas messages are starting too early. I disagree. It’s never too early in the year for the message of peace and goodwill. If people want to market that all year round, it’s fine with me.
Merry Christmas, everyone.