13 Nov A time to embrace tradition
It’s that time of year again – Christmas. It rolls around quickly. Evocative brand advertising, aggressive retail advertising, crowd’s, anticipation and tradition. It’s an intoxicating mix for both consumers and retailers alike.
Most B2C companies rely on people’s Christmas gifting generosity to meet annual sales targets. So where did the established tradition of Christmas gifting come from? According to historian Stephen Nissenbaum, in his book The Battle for Christmas, the origins of gifting at Christmas go back to a social alliance in New York, in the 1800’s, between the wealthy upper class and the flourishing middle class.
You see, back then in New York, the population was growing nearly tenfold. The wealthy elite were anxious because Christmas tradition then involved the working class demanding food and drink from the wealthy in public places. With the working class growing so much, the elite were worried that this tradition would quickly lead to inequality protests and more violent demands.
So, a small group of powerful men, called the Knickerbockers, decided that Christmas needed to be domesticated and repositioned as a home-based celebration. They focused the masses on gifting for children at Christmas. They were even responsible for the poem The Night Before Christmas, which is the 1800’s equivalent of releasing a huge Christmas pop-hit.
And then you have the complicit middle class… they too were concerned about population growth and commercialisation. But mostly they were concerned about their children leaving home and going out into the dangerous and seductive new world. So, they willingly latched onto what the wealthy elite were doing as a way to keep their children safely in the home for longer.
In this context brands that embrace Christmas gifting, and the safety and connectedness it brings, will resonate with people. Sometimes, newness and innovation need to take a backseat to tradition and time honoured sentiments. Christmas is one of those times.