The twinkle lights, stunning decor, delicious food, joyful songs, family reunions, and the additional drive to give and receive. Those are all nice things that encompass the holidays, right? But why do we look forward to them so much? Holiday cheer is the answer.
What even is holiday cheer in the first place?
Holiday cheer is the commonly used term to refer to the lightness of spirit, joy, or happiness that one feels around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. For example, how does this picture make you feel?
If this image makes you feel even a little happier, then you have just experienced a small dose of holiday cheer, my friend. Researchers claim that the holidays do, in fact, have a positive impact on those used to them. This functional MRI study conducted by Brad Haddock showed evidence of a Christmas spirit network in the brain. Essentially, anything that reminds us of Christmastime can trigger a joyful effect on our emotions.
Now, why is holiday cheer important for us?
Some could argue that Christmas and the holidays, therefore holiday cheer, have become too commercialised for their own good. Now, companies exploit the Christmas spirit in their marketing strategies and there seems to be a certain pressure to buy presents for every single one of your loved ones and even for yourself. This has led some people to be more grumpy and Scrooge-like about the holidays, bickering about them becoming way too mainstream. The focus in recent years has seemed to shift from a time to spend with your loved ones to a time to get crazy with shopping. Just look at Black Friday and you will see what I’m talking about. Still, this does not mean holiday cheer is no longer important.
After a year’s worth of work, the holidays seem like a breath of fresh air for many of us. Especially in 2020, after one of the most stressful and complicated years in contemporary history. I believe we all deserve one or two Christmas-y drinks and a good old rom-com marathon. No, seriously, we need any boost of happiness we can get after so much ongoing uncertainty. Holiday cheer plays a crucial role in sustaining our motivation until the end of the year, and in renewing our energies for the next one to come.
So what if we all know those Christmas decorations that fill the shopping malls are only put up earlier as an attempt to trick us into buying more? They still have a positive effect on our emotions. There is just something so uplifting about baking gingerbread men or drinking a cup of hot chocolate. After all, Christmas became too commercialised because people are truly into it. We enjoy buying gifts, decorations, and wholesome food. Holiday happiness is the rule, meanwhile, holiday misery is the exception.
In fact, experts have said before that putting up your Christmas decorations earlier can make you happier. According to what psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told Unilad, people like to associate themselves with things that bring them happiness, especially in a world full of stress and anxiety. “Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extends the excitement!” said McKeown. When the decorations have the power to remind us of simpler times, the festive season does it as well, with all those twinkle lights and colorful ornaments. The decor triggers our so-called holiday cheer.
It has also been proven that picking presents for our loved ones also makes us happier. In an article called The Psychology of Gift Giving and Happiness by clinical social worker Judy Stanigar, it states that research has shown gift-giving provides the giver with as much satisfaction as the recipient, by enabling them to experience a positive self-concept, to feel generous and valuable. This happiness is part of the holiday cheer most people feel around this time of the year. Taking the time to find the perfect gift for someone you care about makes you happier than picking up something for yourself. Christmas becomes the time to buy presents for others, therefore making us more joyful and excited whilst giving us something to look forward to.
Holiday cheer spreads so quickly because people who feel happier due to the festive season tend to share that joyfulness with everyone else around them. Here is where the Christmas choirs, parties, parades, and family reunions come into place. These positive emotions make us excited about all the little festive details, and so we try to spread that joyfulness in the same way that we try to pick the perfect presents. We want others to feel the same enthusiasm and lightness of spirit as well. And these feelings are contagious, too. Most people want to feel happier, so adhering to that cheerful state of mind is a great way to escape the monotony of our day-to-day life.
Today, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. 2020 has been nothing but tough. We need that little boost of happiness that comes from the holiday cheer. When everything seems stressful and our futures are still uncertain, the festive season comes to remind us of easier, more jolly times. It can be the motivation needed by a lot of people to get through the final weeks of the year and feel hopeful about what is next to come.
Commercialised or not, holiday cheer is important. This festive season more than ever. I, for one, have already started singing to the lyrics of All I Want for Christmas Is You.