We see the same insane ritual every year - shopping frenzy, because allegedly Christmas, unlike other festivals, is favourable to it. Advertisement experts start creating the Christmas atmosphere a month earlier in order to let this shopping frenzy spread for good. If a different atmosphere, connected with the All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day was not an obstacle, surely Christmas trees and advertisements referring to the 'magic of the Christmas festival ' would have appeared in early autumn. Sales experts explain this magic acceleration: earlier decorating shopping malls is building a nice social atmosphere which favours good mood, family meetings…

Because, certainly, it is all about arranging costs of 'essential' Christmas shopping, so that dear customers would have enough time to buy as much as possible.

We remember the rush for shopping before Christmas from the times of the Polish People's Republic, but it is difficult to compare it with the today's frenzy in supermarkets, which is not a hunt for a carp, a herring or a kilo of citruses - today there are loads of goods, only more money is needed - but, undoubtedly the effect of massed actions of specialists for marketing using this unusual and unchangeable care among Poles for as richest material setting of Christmas as possible.

Marketing dizziness

Specialists for marketing - not for any reason for the last two decades nearly every second young man in Poland chose just 'marketing and management' as a university faculty after the secondary school exam - they implement new ideas with eagerness, in order to use this unique marketing occasion which is of Christmas, the most significant festival in the cultural tradition. In the 'temples' of mass sale, they have been trying to create a nice and joyful atmosphere since November. They often justify it with the fact that they care about helping family meetings, because nothing cements the contemporary family as successful shopping…

They explain that they only respond to the desires and needs of people, that they are serving to people. They are nearly Christmas benefactors, but for this purpose they are using various psychological-marketing techniques, tricks and often ordinary lies. They get away with it thanks to enormous emotional attachment of people (consumers) to the wonder - called more and more often the magic of Christmas. But they make Christmas change into the common joy, ordinary entertainment, and a momentous escape from the everyday life. Literally momentous because the contrast with weekdays becomes too big.

However, as much as these marketing benefactors of the humankind only respond to luxuriant desires and as much as they create them - here is the question. A camouflaged answer can be found in every textbook, in every course of an amateur marketing; a marketing success depends not only on a correct understanding human desires and longings but also - and maybe first of all - on manipulating people to believe that they have such, not other, very materialized dreams. Marketing artificially creates our needs, and if it does not do it - as more ethical marketing experts state - and it only suggests it to us innocently, anyway, we unconsciously become the subject of manipulation. And we succumb to it very easily just before Christmas.

Stimulating our dreams and very specific 'unnecessary needs' becomes easier and easier thanks to the omnipresent media - especially thanks to the television and also thanks to Internet recently - which form next generations of consumptive societies all over the world also in the poorest countries. The simplest tool of reaction - but not the only one because nearly whole media broadcasting is valuable in a marketing sense - there are, certainly, commercials. Surveys show that a dozen percent of Poles succumb to their influence and more or less the same per cent of them like spending their time in shopping malls. It seems that before Christmas nearly all of us succumb - or we are glad to succumb -to 'magic', and in fact manipulation of Christmas trees in commercials and succumb to artificially festive atmosphere of shopping malls. And in the rushing crowd we forget about the traditional, truly creative essence of Christmas. But how often the family festival is limited to family shopping, and later to joy about presents. But the joy is short term. And it is the purpose - a good consumer is a constantly unsatisfied consumer.

So, because of the ubiquitous marketing, Christmas becomes a consumptive entertainment in our eyes and with our permission, and in a literal sense, because travel agencies also collect their harvest at this holy time. For example, they tempt with 'happy Christmas' in a hot climate and good fun in various holiday resorts. There are a lot of offers and all of them in the Christmas discount, which in most cases has more common with pulling our leg rather than reasonable way of spending hard-earned money.

There is no doubt - it is seen with a bare eye and all the time - that Christmas even in sentimental Poland loses the community and religious-social dimension, and become full of secular traditions and customs which have a particular marketing value. Are only greedy marketing experts guilty of it? They are to a large extent, but not only them, not without our humble contribution.

Acquisition of resistance

People's needs are natural and promoting actions of shopping malls only stimulate needs, and, consequently, the demand for particular objects, trademarks and various kinds of service. This is the theory. Whereas in practice, from morning till night we are being attacked: buy, you have a unique occasion, you gain, you earn, you bring joy to yourself and others have fun! And, first of all: switch on your own thinking, do not think long because time is money! Why do we succumb to these persuasions? Maybe because we really want to feel joy. And it does not matter that it is joy primitively confectioned, sold to us in a packet with other primitive products. From our experience we know that, especially in the pre-Christmas fever - probably this is how the 'magic' works about which a lot is said in commercials - it is difficult to be resistant to less or more insidious techniques of making influence, used by sellers both those from a bazaar and from the shopping malls. And despite of the knowledge of these simple marketing tricks we succumb to them. Despite the common sense, and often to our own loss.

Shopping processes - as social psychologists say - to a large extent are unaware and are always a knee-jerk reaction to the atmosphere in a shop (carols played from November undoubtedly stimulate us to buy things not only for Christmas and on the occasion of Christmas). The decision about a purchase can be not completely realized result of earlier watched commercials. It does not mean, certainly, that we have already been transformed to buying automats. After all, we have a free will and our own reason.

Probably Poles have already learned to cope with aggression of commercials and are leading in the European ranking of 'shopping intelligence' (as it results from the survey of The Future Foundation). In surveys they bravely speak about their personal resistance to marketing manipulations, instead they perceive a great susceptibility to it among the other compatriots. What does it mean? Maybe only the fact that we are not so resistant to commercial persuasion? Or it may be even worse: Aren't we aware at all that we succumb to manipulations?

Spend money like there is no tomorrow

Today many Poles live on credit from festival to festival. In the years of the crisis, banks and various kinds of loan institutions are overwhelming the market with offers of 'exceptionally beneficial' festive loans and credits and easily find the willing. It is characteristic that just in pre-Christmas time Poles willingly do bigger domestic shopping. The biggest popularity belongs to RTV equipment -mainly big television sets, computers and household products. Why do this kind of fundamental shopping are stronger just before Christmas? Maybe because that they have 'family' character and according to conceptions fueled by commercials, will they support and enrich literally the hospitality of Christmas? Nothing more insidious. Christmas in front of TV, no matter how big or wonderful TV set would be or with computer games are contradiction of family festival. It is contradiction of Christmas.

The rule 'spend money like there is no tomorrow' is Old Polish and today takes on especially sensitive actuality. The society, becoming poorer and poorer, wants to live in the illusion of welfare, at least only for Christmas. Because it wants to muffle everyday life. Only, after big Christmas expenditures its life becomes harder….But it is not a concern of marketing experts anymore, who will wait for next festival (and even make them up and multiply them).

In fact very few people feel disgusted by this pre-Christmas frenzy of shopping, although many people become rebellious and start complaining. Surely macroeconomics experts do not complain. They are glad that loan companies induce demand, so, in this way they directly support the economic growth. IN a poor society mainly credits mean the consumptive growth of households. Easily accessible loans increase private consumption, and it is the consumption which generates 60 per cent of the National Gross Product! In 2013, despite the initial pessimism, it turned out that Poles' consumption is stronger than forecasts and the 'indexes of consumers' moods show a clear increasing trend'. They will surely achieve a culminating point before Christmas. There is only a question whether this ordinary object of marketing machineries and overwhelmed by Christmas frenzy will be able to pay off his personal debts. And what will his later level of being pleased be like as well as the sense of happiness. So, should we be glad about the conjuncture increasing in this way or should we rather be sad that Christmas has been put up on sale?

Giving presents to oneself and others

Looking at pre-Christmas crowds in shopping malls, one can feel that the old saying: 'Money is not happiness' lost its sense. However, it is not because we are a richer society. Social psychologists prove that the level of happiness is strictly connected with an amount of possessed money just in poorer societies, to which the Polish society still belongs. So, it is worth remembering that especially on the occasion of Christmas, money give a bit of happiness to poorer people. Whereas, as for richer people - it was proven by scientific experiments - only when rich people give presents to others. Therefore, insidious marketing experts associate Christmas just with a duty of buying presents. At least not in a concern about our happiness, but the benefit for their companies.

In these pre-Christmas weeks it is worth thinking peacefully - because it is the advent time for it - about the deepest essence of one's happiness. Does it really depend on the quality and quantity of presents under a Christmas tree? And what is the effective way of giving anything to others and sharing one's happiness with others? We will understand it when we start associate Christmas with Christ's birth.


"Niedziela" 50/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: