Myth #6: Christmas is fun for all the family

It’s Christmas Day.

The flat is empty; the girlfriend is away with her family and John is too skint to take the train home to see his parents in Scotland.  Rather than dwell in pity, today will be a good day, “the best Christmas for ages”, he says to himself as he prepares the flat for hosting his alternative Christmas party for his friends.

A momentous party is sure to be had and he can’t wait!

I know what you are thinking, why is he talking to himself (that’s weird!) and how can he be looking forward to spending Christmas without his girlfriend?  Well we at OMD UK aren’t surprised at all.

John joins the 65% of those surveyed in our Future of Christmas study who told us they LOVE CHRISTMAS even though they were spending it with their friends last year.  In comparison, 59% of those who spent the day with their partner claim to love Christmas – ouch.

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Whilst the thought of spending Christmas with just your partner might be a bit less exciting for some; the fact that wanting to spend it with friends should come as no surprise.  These findings back up observations from our Future of Families study, where we found that ‘family isn’t defined by blood; but by relationships’.

Nonetheless, the sad fact remains that whilst we tend to love Christmas when spending it with our loved ones, for those who will be alone it can be a very alienating and lonely time of the year.  This is reflected in the fact that last Christmas saw 244,000 calls made to the Samaritans and why only 20% of those who will be spending Christmas alone love it.

Christmas can certainly be a labour of love for parents too.  Those spending Christmas with their children are most likely to say they are looking forward to it; but are the group most likely to say that Christmas is about pressure, panic and over-commercialisation; and that they’re stressed about it, and feel exhausted – but nevertheless they feel compelled to carry on spending.

Christmas can certainly be a labour of love for parents too.  Those spending Christmas with their children are most likely to say they are looking forward to it; but are the group most likely to say that Christmas is about pressure, panic and over-commercialisation; and that they’re stressed about it, and feel exhausted – but nevertheless they feel compelled to carry on spending.

“It’s so commercialised and the pressure on every year to be the perfect Christmas, no matter what else is happening in your life, is enormous”

Jo, 47

And for the grandparents this period is peppered with indecision and uncertainty as they feel as pressured as parents do to get things right.  According to our study one in four grandparents feel that Christmas is about pressure, which may go some way to explain why 45% neither LOVE nor HATE the Christmas period.

“It’s not my favourite time of year.  Too much rushing around and fuss.  Normal shopping becomes a nightmare.  Pressure from others, i.e., ‘Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?’  The commercial aspect is overwhelmingPresents for grandchildren though means enduring the crowded shops and parking but it’s essential to ensure whatever I buy isn’t faulty, because the thought of a disappointed child is unforgivable.”

Jim,65

In an article on the Huffington Post, Dr Amanda Gummer (a child psychologist who specialises in parenting and children’s play) wonders whether this is because of guilt: “Working parents may feel that buying lots of presents justifies the time spent working and away from their family, whereas stay-at-home parents meanwhile may feel the need to compete and not want their children to suffer in comparison to others”.

In spite of this, last Christmas saw the highest consumer confidence during the month of December since 2004.  This highlights that the country is back on the right track and our love of the festive season has not faded over the years.  Whilst Christmas can be a stressful time of year for some, on the whole we all love it whether we spend it with family or friends.

So what?

The presence of kids adds to the magic, but also adds to the stress – especially for disempowered parents and grandparents.  Brands who acknowledge and help will win favour.  Brands also need to reach out to the 4 million people who are expected to spend Christmas alone this year; and understand that Christmas is not only a time for family but is a time for loved ones regardless of blood ties.

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Evros Agamemnonos

Ask Evros any question and he’ll answer it – no matter the subject, Evros loves the challenge of finding out something new about consumers and brands and applying the knowledge in a strategic setting.

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