It’s the week after Halloween and it feels like Christmas day. The mall is covered in lights and garlands, the stores are playing carols, and the TV is showing commercials for the perfect Christmas gift. The only place Christmas hasn’t yet hit is inside the home. The premature arrival of Christmas in the United States in areas of consumerism exemplifies how money has overshadowed the importance of tradition in our society today. This phenomenon may be usefully considered through different theories of cultural anthropology.
As discussed in class, Marxist anthropology is the study of the impact of material factors on social change within a society. If a Marxist anthropologist were to analyze the growing consumerism of Christmas in the United States, he or she might notice the increased importance of shopping and gift giving that surrounds the holiday. He or she may also notice the possible decrease of actual time spent with friends and family and the practice of traditions that originally played a major role in the holiday. One may relate the large division of classes in the United States to consumerism, in particular to that of Christmas. Some people spend thousands of dollars on presents urging large companies to raise their prices making it harder for the lower class to even buy anything at all. Through a Marxist perspective one may conclude that the change in Christmas shopping habits may impact the general division of classes and the decrease of the middle class in the United States today.
If the consumerism of Christmas in the United States were viewed through practice theory, one would compare what people do in order to celebrate Christmas versus what they say they do or what society says they should do. Many people may try to portray their practices of more intimate family traditions such as decorating the tree or baking cookies through forms of discourse such as a Christmas cards. On the contrary, society tells people to go spend all their money on as many gifts that they can possibly buy, mostly through media. The interesting part of this study would be to see who follows what they say they do versus what society tries to convince them to do in order for larger companies to continue to grow. This could be analyzed through calculating the amount of time and money people spend in large shopping malls versus the time they spend in more traditional places like the church or living room of their homes and how that amount of time has changed over the years.
There are several theories one can use to analyze the growing consumerism of Christmas in the United States. Through these theories we can better understand the meaning of Christmas and how money has impacted it, especially in the last sixty years. We can also relate this change in values to the rest of the world and how consumerism in general has become a trend in the economy of many areas of the world.