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What is the psychological impact of Christmas?

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06.12.2018

In the 1930s, US President Calvin Coolidge made the following observation on the annual yuletide festivities: “Christmas is not a time nor a season,” he said, “but a state of mind.”

For sure, Christmas affects the human mind in many ways, capable of stimulating joy, nostalgia, excitement, trepidation, and stress – occasionally all at the same time. It is little surprise to learn, then, that behavioural science has produced voluminous research into the human side of Christmas.

At the time of writing, a standard Google search for the ‘Psychology of Christmas’ yields approximately 126 million results. Even Google Scholar gives us 200,000. There is much to cover.

Perhaps the best starting point is to remember that Christmas is one of the most psychological of human festivals, in that it echoes the visceral terror of darkness that characterised humanity’s earliest experiences of winter.

In primitive societies, the steady shortening of days as autumn passed was a truly frightening thing, as there was little to reassure the world that spring would ever come.

The first winter solstice celebrations coincided with rewards from the sun god, and hence, the emergence of religion and mysticism as powerful influences on the human psyche. The fact it was all based on........

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