[The authors wish to thank Ronald Faber, Harold Kassarjian, Thomas O'Guinn, Clinton Sanders, and Barbara Stem for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper.] INTRODUCTION Despite the fact that Christmas is the most important consumption festival in the United States, one which "mobilizes almost the entire population for several weeks ...
La Barbera (1989) ,"The Meaning of Christmas", in SV - Interpretive Consumer Research, eds. Hirschman, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 136-147.
Across his sample, these rules were remarkably uniform and should be easily recognizable by the reader.
For example, consider the Tree Rule: "Married couples with children of any age should put up Christmas trees in their homes.
Six recent social science studies may Provide more current insights on the meaning of Christmas and consumption.
The first of these, "The Christmas Potlatch..." (Moschetti 1979), examined the asymmetries of Christmas gift giving between different 'classes' of consumers, for instance, the marked tendency of parents to give greater quantities of gifts to their children, than vice versa.There were formal religious aspects to this cult, but "Christmas is also nourished by the ties of family life, by affection for children, by a willingness to aid the needy, and even by the profitseeking activities of modem business.The main rites of the cult are found in the midnight Mass of December 24th, the church service on Christmas Sunday, the family tree and dinner, Christmas shopping, gift giving, charity, Santa Claus' visit and the Christmas card custom...In his view, Christmas had come to reflect many deep currents of the American value system and national character.Barnett concludes that the American Christmas had acquired a seasonal cult status involving participation by the majority of the population.Caplow also found that money gifts were common from employers to employees ...Small money gifts are conventionally given at Christmas to newsboys, postmen, delivery men and other persons of relatively low status... 386)", but no reverse instances were found, conforming to Moschetti's thesis of gift asymmetry and relative social empowerment.and takes precedence over ordinary forms of work and leisure (Caplow 1984, pp.13061307)", it has received almost no attention in the consumer behavior literature, or, indeed, in the social sciences generally. 383), author of two of the seven [Although several investigators have examined the iconography of Santa Claus (see Belk 1987 for a review), few have examined the festival of Christmas, per se.] social science investigations of Christmas we reviewed noted, "An ethnographer who discovered so important a ritual in some exotic culture might he tempted to make it the centerpiece of his cultural description; it is remarkable that social scientists have given so little attention to this conspicuous cluster of symbolic and practical acts." The investigation of Christmas ties together several diverse strands of research inquiry within consumer research.[Middletown III was an interdisciplinary project led by Theodore Caplow (University of Virginia) and funded by the National Science Foundation.Conducted during the late 1970's, it replicated the well-known Middletown I and II studies undertaken by Robert and Helen Lynd during the 1920's and 1930's.] The earliest (Caplow and Williamson 1980) deals with the contrasting iconographics of Christmas and Easter. 224), "Christmas and Easter are each double festivals having separate secular and religious iconographics and separate religious and secular modes of celebration." Caplow and Williamson also discerned several similarities in consumption practices between the two festivals, as well.