THE CASE FOR MATERIALISM
Shopping at Christmas can be good for you
Attending A Christmas Carol is a holiday tradition in Alberta. Theatre Calgary and Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre put on heartwarming productions of Charles Dickens’ classic tale. Although it takes multiple visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, Scrooge is eventually transformed into a kinder and more generous man. He opens his heart and his pocketbook to embrace and celebrate the season with family and friends. The story is a timely and entertaining reminder of the spirit of the holidays.
Today, many people are finding it difficult to reconcile the spirit of Christmas with an increasingly materialistic and commercial holiday season. Retailers stock their Christmas sections as early as the summer months and the festive music loops begin early in the fall. As annoying as many people find “Christmas creep,” retailers are feeling intense pressure to perform during the holiday season. The average Albertan is expected to spend more than $2,000 on Christmas this year, including gifts, entertaining, decoration and travel. Our biggest retailers, from Walmart and Canadian Tire to Loblaws and Sobeys, are in a heated competition for those dollars.
As dependably as Santa puts presents under the tree, we will crowd malls, join long lines and spend hours surfing online for the perfect present. At the same time, headlines and coffee shop conversations will decry the rise of materialism. Just last year, the Pope used his Christmas homily to denounce consumption and warn us not to be intoxicated by possessions. But is materialism such a bad thing?
Actually, most research in this area tends to support the Pope. When consumers focus on buying things, they often pay a price, beyond the cash register, that is reflected in a lower overall sense of well-being. In some cases, excessive consumption even appears to be crowding social relationships out of our lives. One particularly interesting recent study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, investigated the link between loneliness and materialism. The study examined 2,500 consumers over a six-year period and found that materialism does indeed make use lonelier. Moreover, when we are feeling lonely, we become more materialistic. This leads to a vicious cycle of buying more and feeling less connected to other people and then buying more and feeling even lonelier. The effect was particularly strong among young adults and seniors. Single people were more likely to pursue happiness through purchases than those in a relationship.