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Five scientific reasons to let Christmas 2016 jingle all the way

By Pieta Woolley

Oh, the materialism! Oh, the secularism! Oh, the disrespect to veterans when Wal-Mart rolls out its festive Ferrero Rocher and Lindt displays before the poppies have been laid at the cenotaph!

There’s so much to loathe about “X-mas” — a pretty good portmanteau for the non-theistic mainstream celebration of, well, stuff. And for much longer each year. Starting in early November, Cable TV and Netflix offered up the first round of gooey specials. Found at nearly every grocery check-out from Gander, Nfld. to Tofino, B.C., the November issue of Chatelaine features “Holiday party dresses for every occasion.” Shop now!

For me, the X-mas phenomenon is probably more intense and longer than for others. I edit a small magazine on the West Coast, and Christmas issue planning starts here in September (At bigger publications, it can start months earlier.). Plus, my kids sing in choirs, and this all culminates in a retro Christmas performance in December. So the “ding dong ding dong” of the Carol of the Bells has been echoing around my house since early October.

Of course, exasperation permeates. Some people have even ditched Xmas entirely — or at least say they have. Still, some social scientists point out the individual and social benefits of the holiday. Although Xmas probably can’t reverse the ugliness and scariness of Brexit and Trumpism, it can provide some genuine “chicken soup for the soul.”

So bring on the garish inflatable lawn ornaments and foraged mushroom gallette. Here are five scientific reasons to let Christmas 2016 jingle all the way.

1. Improved social cohesion in neighbourhoods

The study: Decorating your home’s exterior with the Griswold touch is an important social signifier of friendliness and openness. It creates connections between neighbours.

Why now: It’s far less coy than wearing a safety pin on your sweater as an “ally." So reach out to neighbours unknown with lights!

2. Self-evaluation: am I shallow?

The study: For people with generally good values (oriented towards family and altruism, etc.), Christmas enhances those feelings. For those with crummy values (money and success, etc.), Christmas lowers feelings of wellbeing. So which one are you?

Why now: Mindfulness is trending!

3. Re-orientation away from digital marketing and online shopping

The study: Christmas windows in stores crop up in early November. They’ve proven to be seriously effective in getting real people into real stores while promoting online chatter about the content of the windows. This benefits small and independent retailers, especially.

Why now: Shopping in person can be both social and therapeutic.

4. More compassionate portrayal of poverty

The study: During the holiday season, news stories about poverty are more frequent, and tend to be less judgemental and more oriented towards helping

Why now: Given the raw class conflict laid bare by the Nov. 8 election in the U.S. — and Canada’s questions about how much of that conflict exists north of the 49th, any stories that promote class understanding are most welcome.

5. Gift-selection can promote closeness

The study: When you purchase or create a gift that says something about you  — instead of just trying to guess what the receiver might like — that gift will result in more closeness between the parties involved.

Why now: Being more selective about holiday shopping has enormous consequences for the environment and personal debt. Starting with the question, “what do I actually want to give?” isn’t a bad beginning.  

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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