By Jeremy Woo
In spite of the naysayers, pessimists and self-proclaimed enemies of commercialized holidays, the winter holiday season truly is the “most wonderful time of the year” for many reasons. However, the recent consumerism and secularism of Western society has challenged its relevance. Christianity is no longer as dominant, the spectrum of year-end celebrations has become wider and December is more closely associated with presents, rather than celebration. Nevertheless, the holiday season is more important and relevant than ever for reasons other than religion. Clearly, the social and economic benefits of year-end holidays have become vital to Canadian society.
A recent study by Carleton University and Western University researchers found that Canadians are working more than ever and are spending less time on leisure and family. Luckily, regardless of faith, employees are often expected or allowed to take extra days away from work during the holidays. The social expectation that workers take time off provides a much needed break from the workplace — the vacation time allows for relaxation and recuperation. Both physical and mental health could benefit from time away from work that would likely be nonexistent if not for the holidays. More importantly, the holidays give Canadians time to reconnect and bond with family and friends. Traditions, values and memories are built as the year comes to a close. These crucial, lasting moments in life often occur during the holidays, simply because society has designated the end of December as a period of rest for many people, opening up opportunities for shared memories and relaxation. These occasions may not be possible without a common holiday season.
Moreover, the holidays are extremely important to the Canadian economy. Interestingly, consumers may assume that only big-box retailers benefit from rampant gift shopping, however, small businesses also receive an influx of shoppers that stimulate local economies, aiding the middle class. Additionally, airlines and travel agencies often catapult their bottom line into the black during the holidays. The financial stimulus not only boosts profits for many firms, but the increased spending eases layoffs, wage cuts and benefit reductions in a reeling economy. December shopping injected $44.8 billion into the Canadian retail sector in 2011 according to the Toronto Sun, bucking economic struggles. Government coffers are also padded by increased sales tax revenue, providing funding for public services.
The seasonal need for employment gives many teens and students much-needed job experience while giving youth extra spending money to further motivate the economy, especially in recent trying times. Also, holidays have more subtle economic effects that go beyond the benefits of consumerism. Locked-away savings that have little economic might are withdrawn and given as gifts. These funds are either placed into markets via spending, or are earmarked for post-secondary education — a long-term social and economic investment.
Finally, charities are beneficiaries of the holiday spirit. As hearts and wallets open in the name of generosity and giving, Canadians jovially give to the less fortunate. Clearly, holiday shopping, travel and gifting converge to create jobs, stimulate the economy and promote spending as well as charitable giving.
Most people can admit to at least one pleasant holiday memory. Whether it was the simple joy of being out of school for a while, playing in the snow with siblings, going shopping with grandma, hanging out with friends at a holiday bash or drinking hot chocolate with mom or dad, the holidays have brought much joy, tradition and connectivity to the lives of Canadians. Societal norms allow Canadians to collectively share in a time of recuperation, relaxation and giving as they have for generations.
Economic stimulation, job creation, tax revenues and charitable giving serve as welcome side effects that improve life for all. Whether it’s mistletoe or menorah, Kwanzaa or Christmas, simple relaxation or full-scale celebration, the holidays have a warm, welcoming and vital place in the lives of Canadians. Evidently, nothing should ever stop a happy holiday.