A Look At The (Over) Commercialization of America’s Favorite Holidays

It’s easy to say it’s all for the money and maximum profit, but does it say something about us as a society, who hold these festive days so close to our hearts?

When it comes to the holidays, America goes all out for them. Selling the most elaborate decorations, cards stocked up for the season that may be, and of course, companies cashing in on whatever product they can sell, defending on the holiday. 

However, a growing question has been circulating around the internet, and it’s only grown more in prominence. People are noticing a strange change in the way companies are selling holiday products, with some stores even deciding to sell them in the middle of upcoming holidays.

Christmas is one of the most well known holidays, but also the most notorious. Oftentimes, stores start to sell decorations around the same time Halloween decor is out. 

But why is this the case? Are the holidays over commercialized?  

The short answer seems to be yes; As far back as the 1980’s, people have noticed the sudden ramp up of holiday products being pushed.

According to The New York Times in 1983, toys, turkeys, and travel cost $125 billion altogether in the course of a couple of months in retail alone. Bartenders and security guards make extra cash around the holiday season. However, business is bad for casinos and motel services.

“The consumption pattern that develops around Christmas creates a pull that affects dozens of industries. For example, people who are shopping tend to spend less time in the kitchen.” The New York Times continues to detail. “Thus the fast-food industry generates more than 10 percent of its $30 billion annual business during the first three weeks of December.

“And children out of school make Christmas week one of the movie industry’s largest. Hollywood can expect about 7 percent of its $3.4 billion annual box office gross in that week.”

In 1983, children off for winter break would be the most profitable audience for theaters, as children would most likely want to head off to the theater to catch a Christmas movie after school with their friends. 

However, with all of this happening in 1983, surely things would be different, or at least be improving. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. 

According to the Daily Forty-Niner, from April of 2023, nothing has gotten better. In fact, commercialization and the “Americanization” of religious holidays like Christmas, Easter, and even St. Patrick’s Day has only gotten more prominent. 

“The rise of cost and consumerism surrounding these holidays have gravely affected how individuals celebrate the holidays and continue to change the religious origins behind the days.” 

Daily Forty-Niner also brought in Kathryn Chew, a professor of religious studies at CSULB, to get her thoughts on the commercialization of major religious holidays. She says,

“Commercialization of religious holidays is a function of the popularity of a religion in its society. The more popular a religion, the more likely it is to be commercialized. In addition to the potential for profit, people could use the commercialization of religious holidays for advertising their religion and creating a brand for it,”

While this is a popular case with holidays like Christmas and Easter, who do have religious backgrounds, specifically from Christian and Catholic faith. There are holidays, like Thanksgiving, who aren’t religious in nature, but are still commercialized. 

Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s generally seen as mostly food centric, given the various meals associated with the day. It also makes a hefty profit because of the food and travel. 

However, it’s not just the big, end-of-the-year holidays that make lots of money for corporations. Even holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, have severely impacted the economy.

According to NASDAQ, on February 13, 2023, Americans spent $23.9 billion dollars on just Valentine’s Day alone, and it’s expected to only increase in 2024. 

Candy, cards, and various trinkets that come with the holiday, complete with the red, white, and pink color schemes and heart shaped designs. It’s also a holiday that’s close to romance, because nothing is more romantic than capitalism. 

A good portion of sales made during the holiday are on candy, with 57% of the profit during the Valentine’s Day season being on candy alone. 

The second-biggest profit makers for the day are on flowers (47%) and even full on experiences, like going out to dinners (32%). 

35% of shoppers for these gifts do it mostly online, with a close 34% wanting to do their shopping in person. 

Moving along, into the summer, Independence Day has made $9.5 billion dollars in sales of food and fireworks alone. Which is $2 billion more than 2022, when Independence Day sales made $7.7 billion. This comes from 87% of people who celebrate the holiday in the first place. 

Every year when these holidays come around our local department stores, shelves are filled to the brim with multiple trinkets for the days to come. 

It’s most prevalent near the end of the year, when both Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations are fighting for shelf space. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and even Easter, are in a similar spot as well. 

Some say it’s ironic that days like Christmas and Valentine’s are as exploited as they are, because the days are “supposedly” about love and compassion. That couldn’t be further from the case in the eyes of corporations. 

It’s easy to say that it’s all because the companies (and the stores that sell their products) just want to make the maximum amount of money possible, and don’t care about the days themselves. But is that the case? 

It varies from company to company. Stores like Walmart or Target hold already made products to sell for the seasons. But for places like Micheal’s, it encourages making gifts by selling only the supplies to make them. 

However, it’s only a small aspect of the bigger picture. From a distance, it’s all commercialization and muddying the meaning of each respective holiday. 

And maybe at its core, that’s all it is.