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Caplow concluded that the primary purpose of the Christmas festival, in general, and Christmas gift giving in particular was to reinforce social solidarity and kinship ties.
[The authors wish to thank Ronald Faber, Harold Kassarjian, Thomas O'Guinn, Clinton Sanders, and Barbara Stem for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper.] INTRODUCTION Despite the fact that Christmas is the most important consumption festival in the United States, one which "mobilizes almost the entire population for several weeks ...
La Barbera (1989) ,"The Meaning of Christmas", in SV - Interpretive Consumer Research, eds. Hirschman, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 136-147.
Further, it is rich in both consumption symbolism and mythology (Rook 1986; Levy 1981); a time when many forms of sacred and secular iconography are blended together into a complex, evocative social text (cf, Mick 1986).
Thus, by studying the meaning of Christmas, we may learn much not only about consumption, but about the overlap and interplay of many current consumption theories, as well.
Christmas In Social Science Inquiry The most thorough examination of the role of Christmas in American life was undertaken by Barnett (1954).
By interpreting a diversified collection of documentary evidence, Barnett traced changes in the meaning of the American Christmas festival from early Colonial days to the middle of the Twentieth Century.
Six recent social science studies may Provide more current insights on the meaning of Christmas and consumption.
The first of these, "The Christmas Potlatch..." (Moschetti 1979), examined the asymmetries of Christmas gift giving between different 'classes' of consumers, for instance, the marked tendency of parents to give greater quantities of gifts to their children, than vice versa.
One very conspicuous aspect of the Christmas festival is its emphasis upon gift-giving and exchange processes of interest both to consumer (cf, Belk 1979; Brinberg & Wood 1984; Sherry 1983) and marketing (cf, Bagozzi 1974; Hirschman 1987) researchers.
Second, Christmas is a festival celebrating sensory pleasure -- the holiday foods and feasts, punch and eggnog, bright decorations, cheering music, and the scent of evergreens [At least in northern climes.] (cf, Hirschman and Holbrook 1982; Holbrook and Hirschman 1982).