Monday, April 21st, 2014

Naughty or nice? Christian reflection on the holidays

As my inbox begins to fill with links to ChristmChristmas listas wish lists from my six kids I admit that I begin considering a strategy for Christmas shopping.

Will I just do it all online or will I brave the mall? Having missed Black Friday do I take advantage of Cyber Monday? Do I still have time to make homemade gifts? What do people need? Could I get away with giving everyone alternative gifts this year?

Then I encounter the next layer challenge: Where to shop? Does it matter? Should it?

In the midst of my Christmas-shopping questions, what to my wondering mind should appear, but the annual “Naughty or Nice” shopping guide, from our friends at the American Family Association!

AFA evaluates major retailers in their marketing stance toward Christmas. They explain that each retailer was evaluated according to their print media, broadcast media, website and personal visits to the store.

“If a company’s ad has references to items associated with Christmas (trees, wreaths, lights, etc.), it was considered as an attempt to reach ‘Christmas’ shoppers. If a company has items associated with Christmas, but did not use the word ‘Christmas,’ then the company is considered as censoring ‘Christmas.’”

Each company gets a color rating, as follows:

BLUE: An AFA “5-Star” rated company that promotes and celebrates Christmas on an exceptional basis.
GREEN: Company uses the term “Christmas” on a regular basis, we consider that company Christmas-friendly.
YELLOW: Company refers to Christmas infrequently, or in a single advertising medium, but not in others.
RED: Company may use “Christmas” sparingly in a single or unique product description, but as a company, does not recognize it.

From a purely marketing perspective, it seems strange that any company would risk alienating shoppers through inattention (active or passive) to the celebration of Christmas. On the other hand, perhaps some companies wager that more Americans are secularist, pluralist, or simply of another faith (Islamic, Hindu, Jewish), and that any loss of business from getting on a Christian’s “naughty” list would be offset by positive vibes they send out to non-Christians.

And, although stores like Walmart and Sears have a “blue rating” in that they promote Christmas in their marketing, the commercialization of Christmas can, in itself, be problematic to our spiritual formation. If a child screams, “I want a Barbie motorcar” or a teen lusts for the latest iPhone due to commercials, it makes little difference whether they are tacking the phrase ” … for Christmas” at the end of their demanding rant.

As always, there are many angles for every issue in our lives. If we are to be reflective and Christ-honoring, we must not jettison the hard work of thinking Christianly about all things.

But for now, I’ve got some Christmas lights that won’t get hung if I don’t get them out of the box.


About the author: Carmen Fowler LaBerge

Carmen Fowler LaBerge heads the ministry of the Presbyterian Lay Committee as its President and Executive Editor of its publications, including The Layman.


  1. Joyce & Orville says:

    when are you going to up date for 2014 naughty and Nice?

  2. Brint Keyes says:

    I find it deeply disheartening to learn that a Christian organization such as AFA would consider various merchants’ methods of subordinating Christmas to their marketing campaigns as something that is in any way positive. Lord, have mercy upon us.

  3. P. J. Southam says:

    By now many of us have seen videos on the news or on YouTube of shoppers getting into fights over merchandise on Black Friday. On the first Sunday of Advent the prophet Isaiah says the day will come when “neither shall they learn war any more”. Our Lord Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, and said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

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