A study finds that families who focus on buying and receiving gifts report more stress and less satisfaction during the holiday season
To call Christmas "commercialized" today isn't a criticism so much as a statistical observation. One in every six dollars in retail spending is exchanged in the five weeks between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. Analysts now expect us to spend approximately $450 billion this month, or around $700 per family -- equal to a typical month's rent.
But according to a 2002 study we surfaced for our Santanomics series, spending money won't make your Christmas any merrier. In fact, putting too much focus on buying and receiving presents might be ruining our holidays.
In a study that asked 117 people to answer questions about their emotional state during the Christmas season, Tim Kasser and Kennon M. Sheldon studied how certain holiday activities -- e.g. spending time with family, participating in religious activities, spending money on others, and receiving gifts -- affect happiness. The conclusion: "More happiness was reported when family and religious experiences were especially salient, and lower well-being occurred when spending money and receiving gifts predominated."