It’s getting close to that time of year again, and what better way to spend it than with your family. For many people they see family activities as making dinner, opening gifts……and decorating? Some see the task as drawn out and tedious. So that begs the question, why decorate at all?
But first we must learn why it is a tradition in the first place. In the year 1917, a fire took place due to a family having used candles. This sparked the idea of Albert Sadacca to use Christmas lights, and we have been using them ever since.
Now back to the main question at hand. For some families, decorating is an opportunity to communicate friendliness to neighbors. According to a study conducted by Werner et al neighbors that decorated their household cued in that they were both friendly and cohesive. Participants were asked to rate the friendliness of people’s families based only on pictures of their households. As expected, houses without decorations got attributed to having a low amount of friendliness.
Decorations acted as a way of communicating to another group of people in a social manner that resulted in a positive outcome. As a result, the more decorations you have the more probable people are going to think that you are friendly.
In simple words, we decorate because we care what others have to say about us(whether or not they see us as friendly). As MVHS junior Nihar Srikantappa says “I think that most people do it just so other people know that they celebrate christmas and that they are social.”
Researchers in University College London and Aarhus University conducted a study where they compared and found a connection between the activeness of our reward system in our brain and other peoples opinion. The ventral striatum, the ventral part of our reward system, was the main area of focus for this study. Whenever the experts and participants shared a similar opinion, the ventral striatum became more active. They traced neural signals that track changes associated with the opinions of others.
People derive pleasure whenever other people are synonymous with their actions or their beliefs. It explains why we find people decorating for the “wrong reason”.
Finding the Christmas Spirit
Often times whenever dealing with anything Christmas related, one must be in a state that invokes the Christmas Spirit.
In a study conducted in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers found that people were happier when around family while doing religious traditions rather than being surprised by materialism.
In the Article In the pursuit of happiness all family leisure is not equal by Karen K. Melton, she explains how recreational activities with families often provide more happiness for family members. Some people attribute decorating their trees and houses to be fun but others think that it is the opposite.
There is also an adverse effect that accompanies this activity—annoyance. Some families find the entire tradition of decorating to be time consuming and not fully rewarding.
On a similar note, MVHS junior Nihar Srikantappa says “I don’t find decorating all that fun. I mainly consider it to be somewhat of a hassall considering I may have other things to do.” Some people connotate christmas activities as tedious chores that must get done in order to go on with their day.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are Christmas lighting competitions, where families end up paying hundreds of dollars to see their house get turned into a light up museum.
Even if you can’t go all out like some people do on this festive holiday, a few lights and a simple tree is all you need to bring out the true spirit of this holiday!