Ho! Ho! Ho! It all happened when Santa Claus appeared in an advertisement for Coca-Cola and opened the doors for a huge volume of business during Christmas.
It is that time of the year again! When the world goes jingle all the way and so does the shopping bills. Yes, it’s Christmas time – gifts, cards, feasts or holidaying, celebrations. They have become a multi-million-business opportunity for a whole lot of people. “Christmas has come to be a means to get more business. Retail shops have major sales, malls are advertising using the Christmas theme. It’s after all time for giving and also enticing people into buying. But what about the true meaning of Christmas,” says Keya Roy, art director, Dow Jones International, New York.
Jeannie Kim, a devout Christian, expresses anger and confusion over the fact that her beloved roly-poly Santa Claus was first used by Coca-Cola in the 1930s. While several legends of how Santa Claus made his appearance abound, the truth is that Coca-Cola did increase its sales that winter. And since, come Yule Tide Santa Claus can be found gracing every department store.
Santa was certainly popular amongst the masses before the 1930s, but the Coca-Cola ad played an important role in establishing in America the transition of a holiday from a religious observance to a commercial celebration.
“This country is based on publicity, the better you do it, the more success. Right from politics to business, it is all about the correct publicity,” says Ash K Shah, president-cum-marketing manager, Impex International Group, Inc. “Christmas is the only major festival in America. And the people want to make the most of it,” adds Ash.
“This multi-billion-dollar business opportunity is all because of a commercialised Christmas season, which is a great marketing scheme worth appreciating,” says Ash. Not only retail businesses but also the independent ones have marked up a huge profit during Christmas. “Look at the way they decorate the shopping malls to lure customers,” he says.
The Galleria Mall is famous for the most popular Christmas Tree in Houston. Built on ice it holds about 5,000 24-carat gold leaf ornaments. Its grandiose beauty standing 55-feet high in the centre of the Galleria ice rink is spectacular.
But an American like Jeannie appears exhausted. She says she was stressed out rushing from store to store buying presents. “The fact that we are celebrating the birth of Christ remains unheard,” says Vineeta. “The true meaning of Christmas seems to have disappeared. What should have been the ideal time for teaching the children lessons of simplicity and faith, turns out to be the greatest time for displays of materialistic possessions,” she laments.
The pressure for holidaying is just as high as the on the credit cards. In brief, Christmas has transformed itself from a scared celebration to a time of stress and confusion. The stress level is equally high amongst children. “Some parents are in dilemma whether to slash the holiday expenditure because they feel that will deprive their children,” says Edwards, a Houston based child psychologist. “But too much of giving can be more harmful than good,” he says. Christmas celebrations are at its peak in schools. The belief in Christ and Santa Claus is strengthening with holy teachings and other cultural activities. The local Montessori schoolteachers in Houston feel that their students under the age of five do believe in Santa Claus, while children above that age just want their presents.
Veronica Herrera of Pilgrim Elementary School in Houston has a similar opinion. “The innocence of the present generation in American society is completely ruined. They do not believe in Santa Claus. They only want presents,” says smiles Veronica, a first-grade teacher. Houston filmmaker Bidisha Banerjee says marketing has always been a lethal weapon for money-makers. “Those who live in glass houses must learn to deal with temptations. “The true meaning of Christmas and the holiday should be taught at home by the help of parents and teachers”, says Bidisha.
“It’s a matter of balancing the act,” says a counsellor. By following some simple tips like, avoiding trips to the shopping mall or learning to give useful presents, does not only lower expenses but also stress.