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Christmas displays have emotional consequences

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Michael Schmitt, SFU psychology, 778.898.0464, mschmitt@sfu.ca
Dixon Tam, SFU media relations, 778.782.8742; dixon_tam@sfu.ca

December 17, 2010

Christmas displays can undermine the psychological well-being of people who do not celebrate the holiday, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

“This research demonstrates that the pervasive presence of Christmas displays in December makes people who do not celebrate Christmas feel like they don’t belong, and it harms their emotional well-being,” said SFU associate psychology professor Michael Schmitt.

The study was conducted by Schmitt, SFU psychology professor Stephen Wright, and SFU grads Kelly Davies and Mandy Hung. Their research was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in an article called, “Identity moderates the effects of Christmas displays on mood, self-esteem, and inclusion.”

Two experiments were conducted to examine the emotional consequences of being in the presence of a Christmas tree. SFU students were brought to a lab and randomly assigned to work in one of two rooms – one that had a 12-inch Christmas tree on a desk and one that didn’t. The participants, who were not aware they were part of a study about the effects of Christmas trees, then completed a questionnaire about their mood.

The first study investigated the effects of the Christmas tree for participants who, several months earlier, had reported whether or not they celebrate Christmas. For those who did not celebrate Christmas, being in the room with the Christmas tree led to a less positive mood compared to being in a room with no tree. In particular, the Christmas display made non-celebrators feel less sure about themselves (what psychologists call “self-assurance”). Participants who did celebrate Christmas showed the opposite response – the presence of the tree led to a more positive mood.

The second study investigated the effects of a Christmas display on students from different religious backgrounds. Students who identified with a religion other than Christianity (Sikhs and Buddhists) experienced a less positive mood, particularly less self-assurance, in the presence of the tree. The tree also made Sikhs and Buddhists feel less included at the university. The tree did not affect Christian students’ sense of inclusion at the university, but it did lead them to a more positive mood.

“When you consider that Christmas displays are almost everywhere, it starts to add up,” said Wright. “It can create a sense that everyone is expected to celebrate. For people who don’t, or who already have their own rich cultural traditions, the sheer number of Christmas displays can be seen as a message that they don’t belong.”

“All of the researchers involved in these studies celebrate Christmas,” said Schmitt. “Our findings in no way suggest that we need to put an end to all holiday displays, but our research does suggest that we need to be more thoughtful about the presence of Christmas displays in many social situations.

“These displays can make people of some cultures feel less included. This is especially important in social spaces where we value inclusion and respect for cultural and religious diversity, such as schools and workplaces. In such contexts, the safest course of action in terms of respecting diversity is to avoid putting up Christmas displays altogether. But we, as a society, could go a long way toward addressing this challenge by simply toning down the presence of Christmas displays.”

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So Michael Smith is slaughtering this study on CKNW right now. And I don't blame him.

This study's conclusion is really about trying to suck the soul out of people in the name of "diversity".

This research has tunnel vision, and has simplified in order to avoid the real problems in society.

Finally, FYI, I know LOTS of Sikhs and Hindus who celebrate Christmas in the secular sense - they have Christmas trees and give gifts, etc. They enjoy it.... and I'm an Atheist, and I celebrate it too.

But anyway, my point is, if you turn on CKNW right now, you can hear about how this report is causing lots more damage to people's moods than Christmas displays are.


So what is the conclusion of the study? should we put the Christmas tree or should we remove it to prevent the hurt feeling of non Christian or may be better to out-law Christmas at all so non Christian can be morally happy . My point is if you don't like see Christmas tree, don't look at it ...