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The Psychology of the Holiday Season

Candy canes, family, greeting cards, blinding neighbors with decorative lights, fighting with the 89-year-old for the 50% off UGG boots, ahh…. the competitive spirit of Christmas.

Studies have shown that the holiday season brings out the best and worst of us.   For example, there is the study by psychologist John M. Groho who spoke about “Christmas lighting addiction.” Groho explained the addiction to be caused by an abundance of inexpensive lights and competition. Another factor is that it does not take a mastermind to put up lights.  A cursory YouTube search of Christmas decorating shows not only a home whose Christmas lightning is synced, as if to cause a seizure, to the song “Gangnam Style,” but also 4,250 videos of Christmas lighting displays.

Michelle Oh, a sophomore student, said, “We usually don’t decorate our homes for Christmas due to laziness and simplicity. However, when I was younger, our family bought a few decorations to bring out the holiday spirit. This also answers that we do not have a lighting addiction but rather now lack the Christmas spirit in us.”

Photo Credit - The Science Media Centre New Zealand

Photo Credit – The Science Media Centre New Zealand

“I feel like gathering together and eating and just hanging out for Christmas is the holiday spirit. Usually everyone has their own thing, own business to take care of these days that a lot people choose to do other things on Christmas day. It feels very heartwarming and nice to sit around talking and laughing all together.”

If one cannot spend time with the ones they love or close friends, sending a greeting card has been seen as just effective.  A study by Karen L. Fingerman and Patricia C. Griffiths showed that those who received large amounts of greeting cards had increased feelings of being socially wanted. The cards received were from peripheral ties, which were defined as those who were not family nor close friends, but daily acquaintances or those they have not seen in a year.

Though all adults showed emotional reaction, younger adults acknowledged their greeting cards merely as a form of maintaining social ties. Older adults received their greeting cards as a sentimental reminder of the past. The adults that were in the study were also characterized from their religious beliefs: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, other, or none.  No matter what religion one is in, being acknowledged results in a great feeling. So send a card to your professors or even give a card to the maintenance man at work; you never know how a simple card can impact a person.

Finally, we hear all the time that “it’s the thought that counts”.  But scientists have found that terrible gifts and terrible relationships go hand and hand.

A study by Elizabeth W. Dunn and colleagues revealed that females who received terrible gifts from their partner were more likely to accept it with a positive outlook. Males who received terrible gifts from their partners lost the connection to their partner and told their partners they did not like the gift. The males who did not like the gifts were more likely to lose interest in the females, due to the loss of similarity. So ladies, if you feel that the person you are with are “the one,” make sure you know what “the one” likes, because they might not be “the one” next holiday.

“I feel that it is a time where the bond between people is the strongest, not mostly about gift, but mostly about spending time with the ones you love,” said a senior who asked to remain anonymous.

The holiday season is about spending time and acknowledging the ones you hold close to your hearts. No matter what religion, gifts or addiction, the holiday season represents the best quality any human can have and that is love.  No study needed to back that up.


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