There is a lingering question in the commercial side of holidays – how to market Christmas to cultures that do not celebrate the particular holiday. It's a question that is not that easy to answer.
In a few days, billions of Christians around the world will be celebrating one of the most awaited holidays of the year – Christmas, which, for many is the time when people worldwide come together to share the spirit of hope, love and giving.
Christmas is both a cultural and religious celebration, the religious roots of which date back several millennia. Yet there are still countries and cultures that do not observe Christmas.
In many Christian countries, the re-enactment of nativity scenes is an annual tradition, whether they are using sculpted images or humans. Many people around the world join in the observance of religious practices like attending the midnight or early morning Mass.
Varied Christmas traditions
While Christians worldwide observe Christmas, their traditions for celebrating the holiday vary. Some have decorated and lit Christmas trees, some have advent wreaths in their homes, and some people hang Christmas stockings.
In the 2015 study of Pew Research Center, 2.38 billion people are adherents of Christianity, making it the largest religion in the world. This represents 31.2% of the world's population of 7.3 billion.
Still, nearly 69% of the total world population follows various religions and many of them do not observe Christmas.
Is there a way to market Christmas to those people who belong to non-Christmas cultures?
Can you market Christmas in Non-Christian Cultures?
YES, you can market Christmas in non-Christian culture.
Today, many people think that Christmas is too commercialized, with malls and stores holding holiday sales and other promotional gimmicks to attract holiday shoppers. Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in the U.S., with about 90% of the population celebrating it. Would you believe that according to the 2017 Pew Research Center survey, 95% of Christians celebrate Christmas but for Americans, the religious aspect of Christmas is declining, particularly for millennials?
In the 2013 survey of Pew Research, they noted that 81% of the people celebrating Christmas are not Christians, due to diversity in the family and inter-faith marriages. Another factor that affects the celebration of Christmas is the moving away of the younger generations from their parents' religion although they hold on to Christmas celebrations because it is a tradition in their family.
From the viewpoint of businesses and shop owners, how should they approach their holiday marketing given that their clientele is diverse?
So as not to offend or alienate any shopper, here are ways to market Christmas to Christians and non-Christians.
1. Christmas greetings
In stores, staff members greet their customers Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. When you say Happy Holidays, it includes everyone, so it is a popular choice although there are people who think that the greeting pushes Christmas aside while some people think that it does not matter at all.
Greeting customers with "Happy Holidays" works best with large companies with a diverse set of clientele. It is a safer choice because even large corporations are owned by different people from different cultural backgrounds.
For small store owners, with a smaller list of customers, many of whom the owners personally know, it is best to make the greeting personal knowing their cultural background, so it can be Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.
2. Recognizing and including other holidays
Adding decorations and symbols that represent their customers' holidays can make them feel respected and welcomed. It is also good to mention other cultural holidays observed by the customers during the season in promotional posters and advertising, which makes the customers feel that the shop values them.
3. Being mindful of the holiday itself
Times are changing and while Christmas is generally a religious event, many non-Christians still join in the celebration. Through the years, the celebration of Christmas is becoming more secular and cultural rather than a religious celebration. Shop owners should be very creative in coming up with marketing and advertising messages to cater to all types of customers.
An example would be to use one of the Christmas messages – peace on earth and goodwill to all men. It's a neutral message that includes Christians and non-Christians. It is their (immigrants) chance to identify with their new country and show their neighbors that they have been integrated into the community.
4. Recognize the cultural traditions and beliefs
Marketing Christmas to people from cultures that do not celebrate Christmas traditionally is difficult. It is also a fact that today there are non-Christians who partake of the celebration by their own choice.
While several countries do not traditionally celebrate Christmas, they still sell products for the holidays because of the presence of expats and travelers who still want to observe the holiday even if they are overseas.
So, here are some of the countries where Christmas is not traditionally celebrated. However, these countries still cash in on the Christian tradition.
It's only after China opened its doors to the West that celebrating Christmas became popular. Christians are considered a minority in the country and they do celebrate Christmas, but the occasion is not a public holiday. Commercially, Chinese businesses have come to appreciate the season and they cater to the expat community, with street vendors and large department stores carrying products for the holidays, including Christmas decorations, lights and trees. Stores play Christmas music as well.
The celebration is not banned and many establishments put up Christmas decorations, such as universities, schools, businesses, a few tourist attractions and hotels. They celebrate the occasion with gatherings of friends and relatives. Younger Chinese people use the occasion to have a date and exchange gifts with their partner.
Christmas is a public holiday in other Chinese territories such as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
Being a non-Christian country, Qatar does not celebrate Christmas, but in Doha, where there is a large expat community, it is possible to see and buy Christmas decorations even if the choices are limited. Expats and travelers who want to celebrate the holiday can visit hotels catering to an international clientele. These luxurious establishments often have Christmas trees, decorations and special buffets on Christmas Eve.
On their own, Christmas is just an ordinary day for Tunisians. But for business establishments and shop owners, it is an economic opportunity they cannot afford to miss. Therefore, people who want to celebrate Christmas in Tunisia can do so. Flower sellers sell Christmas trees and shoppers can find Christmas accessories and decorations. They are likely to find several unique gift items suitable for the holidays in the souks (marketplace).
Local churches celebrate mass on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, but the holiday spirit stops there. Because the climate in Tunisia is warm in December, most people, especially tourists, spend their days on the beach.
Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christians, which is about 15% of the country's population, celebrate Christmas a little later. Their Christmas occurs on January 7 following the old Julian calendar. Their observance is different from most countries, starting with fasting from November 25 to January 6. They eat a vegan diet and attend mass at 10 in the evening on Christmas Eve, which can last anywhere from midnight or at four in the morning.
Holidays observed by other cultures
Several cultures may not celebrate Christmas but they do have other holiday celebrations during the festive months of December to January or February wherein retailers and other shop owners can still enjoy robust sales if they are creative enough in their marketing approaches.
This is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of Jerusalem's Holy Temple after their victory in 165 BCE over the Syrian-Greeks. Following the Jewish lunar calendar, Hanukkah falls between November 28 and December 26. The celebration usually lasts for eight full days.
African culture is celebrated in the United States through Kwanzaa. It is a 7-day holiday that commences on December 26 and lasts until the first of January. About five million people observe the holiday annually. On its sixth day, the last day of the year, people hold a big feast called the Kwanzaa Karamu.
3. Winter Solstice
The year's shortest day and longest night occurs on December 21 or the winter solstice. Pagans celebrate it as the coming of the Yule holiday. The rebirth of the sun is celebrated on this day, which signals the start of longer days and shorter nights.
4. Las Posadas
In some Hispanic homes in the United States, Las Posadas is celebrated from December 16 to 24. It is a 9-day event consisting of a procession with songs and candles and at times, people dressing up as Joseph and Mary to lead the procession. Each night is celebrated with a party with prayers, tamales, songs, piñatas and exchange of gifts.
Hindus around the world celebrate the 5-day Festival of Lights or Diwali in October or November based on the Hindu calendar. A Hindu legend is honored each day, based on the celebration of life and the triumph of good versus evil.
6. Chinese New Year
For the Chinese, Christmas Day is an ordinary day but their Lunar New Year is the most important. They celebrate the holiday for 15 days with the biggest celebration on the 15th day, which is marked with the Lantern Festival. It is a huge event with plenty of food, gifts and cash, fireworks and family get-togethers.
Let us help with your marketing efforts through accurate translations
Celebrating Christmas is a personal, religious and cultural tradition. Different cultures observe the holiday differently and some countries either do not celebrate the day or their governments have banned the observance of the holiday. For us here at Day Translations, Inc. we honor and respect all holiday traditions around the world. As a professional translation company, we work with thousands of translators from around the world, so we are culturally aware of their customs and traditions and we celebrate with them. This season, send holiday greetings to your family, friends and colleagues in a language they understand. We work with more than 100 languages and our translators can help you with your holiday greetings quickly and accurately. We are open 24/7 all throughout the year, so give us a call at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us.
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