Contemporary Consumption Rituals: A Research Anthology

By Cele C. Otnes; Tina M. Lowrey | Go to book overview
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6
Consumer Fairy Tales
of the Perfect Christmas:
Villains and Other Dramatis Personae
Tina M. Lowrey
University of Texas at San Antonio
Cele C. Otnes
University of Illinois, Urbana—Champaign

Research on the modern-day Christmas—describing fractured families and decreased leisure time—indicates that ideal celebrations, although mythologized in literature and film, are hard to achieve (Otnes, Zolner, & Lowrey, 1994; Sherry, McGrath, & Levy, 1992). But as Christmas has taken on a more secular meaning (Belk, 1989, 1993), it has become the occasion for acknowledging important social bonds. In fact, for increasingly mobile and malleable families, it may be the only significant recognition of kinship ties to occur all year (Cheal, 1987, 1988). Thus, the risk of not “doing Christmas right” seems to outweigh any inconveniences or ill tempers that result from the holiday.

Many orchestrators of Christmas celebrations (typically women; Fischer & Arnold, 1990; Laird, 1996) are not content with having merely tolerable holidays. Instead, they often aspire to creating a Christmas more memorable than the previous one. In fact, we argue that our informants strive to create a “fairy tale” Christmas. Although this term is typically associated with weddings, our data demonstrate it is just as relevant to this similarly complex consumption ritual. In the vernacular, a “fairy tale” Christmas would seem to mean that consumers seek happy endings for their celebrations, like those fairy tales that end with a joyous family reunion (Hansel and Gretel), the acquisition of precious goods (Jack and the Beanstalk), or recognition for creativity and cleverness (Puss ‘NBoots). Moreover, not only do our informants strive toward fairy tale endings, our data reveal that their experiences actually involve the characters (or dramatis personae) found in fairy tales. In short, our informants' tales are filled with valiant heroines, evil vil

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