The power of gift giving in a commercialized world


Gabrielle Wheeler '23

Christmas commercialization presses the importance of gift giving.

While many view the exchange of holiday gifts as a negative tradition, Christmas commercialization is in fact beneficial.  Although commercialization first centered around gifts for children, present-day Christmas gift-giving goes beyond material items.  Today, the holiday season serves as a reminder for people to appreciate each other by finding ways to show gratitude.  

In the eighteenth century, Germany and the Netherlands introduced St. Nicholas as the patron saint of children because he left presents in stockings for children to enjoy.  Companies then began using images of Santa Claus as a marketing ploy, according to  Stores displayed images of Santa Claus delivering gifts to children in catalogs that targeted children and their parents.

Toys for Tots distributes toys and books to children. Courtesy of

In reaction to commercialization, modern-day Christmas festivities have strayed away from the holiday’s religious origins as an observance of Jesus’s birth in the Bible.  Just as Christmas traditions have changed, so has the world.  Individuals must embrace these changes and can adapt to them by welcoming the holidays as a time to celebrate their loved ones and express gratitude.

Some argue that Christmas commercialization drives the focus away from the holiday’s true meaning.  However, gifts are not always tangible and do not have to come at a great expense because they can be handmade or even shared experiences. 

The holiday season encourages charity as Christmas is a family-centered holiday.  When shopping for their own presents, customers consider the needs of other families.  These reflections lead to more charitable donations during the holiday season.  Stores often persuade customers to donate by asking for minimal donations, such as rounding up their total.  For instance, donations at Home Goods stores benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, according to

During the Christmas season, individuals also become more mindful about appreciating others.  This holiday reminds people everywhere to show gratitude for their blessings.  

Children from the Carver Center receive gifts in 2020.  Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

Gifts may also be acts of service and can encourage a cycle of giving with the tradition of thank you cards.  Although thank you cards are a product of commercialization, they also symbolize the importance of gratitude.  Japanese culture uses okaeshi as a thank you gift.  After receiving a gift, the Japanese send a thank you present of half the value of the original gift, according to  In English, okaeshi means return or reciprocation.  Therefore, the tradition focuses on the action of giving, rather than the physical gift itself. 

Gifts are the most significant when they carry special meaning for the recipient.  During the holiday season, each individual has a choice to regard purchasing gifts as a meaningless responsibility or to thoughtfully choose gifts to thank those who have made a difference this year. 

Through selecting items, services, or ways to help others, commercialization encourages people to find ways to improve the lives of others.  Christmas commercialization is a positive and constructive practice that encourages reflection and strengthens communities. 

Featured Image by Gabrielle Wheeler ’23