Many Americans bemoan the fact that Thanksgiving has become, to some extent, a forgotten holiday, lost in the middle of November and thoroughly overshadowed by Christmas. And there is no question that retailers have much to gain from the Christmas idea held by so many Americans in our consumer-driven society that more is better. As a result, stores decorate heavily for the increasingly popular Halloween holiday but then forego the traditional turkey and Pilgrim motifs for Thanksgiving, instead jumping directly to advertising that generates Christmas gift ideas for as large a population of potential gift buyers as possible.
In the United States, the Christmas retail season is seen as the economy's last chance to deliver favorable numbers before the end of the year. Newscasters report on the day after Thanksgiving, long regarded as the most active shopping day of the season (the other being Christmas Eve), as if they are handicapping a major sports event. Financial advisors and investors follow the announcement of an "in the red" or "in the black" Christmas shopping season and tailor their advice and activities accordingly.
At the same time that business people and many die-hard shoppers embrace this Christmas idea of mass gift-giving, there has been, in recent years, something of a backlash against the annual spending orgy. As Americans have come to rely more and more on credit, thus plunging themselves farther and farther into debt with each holiday season, it would seem to many that the best Christmas gift ideas for most folks would involve spending less not more.
This Christmas idea of frugality and self-restraint leads some families to host "Chinese auctions" during which members compete with one another to win various items, with each person walking away at the end of the day with a single gift. By the same token the Christmas idea of drawing the name of one member of a large family to receive one gift has also grown in popularity. Many families feel this helps keep Christmas expectations realistic and lowers the financial burden of the season for all family members.
Because the holiday has religious significance for Christians who commemorate December 25 as the day of the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger in the Judean town of Bethlehem, some parents seek to emphasize this aspect of the Christmas idea rather than allow their children to be born away on a tide of consumerism. These parents attempt to use the season to teach values rather than to encourage a culture of acquisitiveness.
The tradition of giving gifts may be a Christmas idea actually borrowed from the Romans who exchanged items in honor of the winter solstice, normally in January. And certainly the figure of Santa Claus, flying around in his sleigh delivering gifts down the chimney, is one much-beloved by children as well as a story that has been translated in various ways by a number of cultures. But the commercial explosion of the holiday as a major economic venue is a relatively new phenomenon and one that continues to generate both praise and censure.