The 7 Factors That Add Up to a Merry Christmas

Do the holidays bring happiness or stress?

Posted Dec 18, 2015

We often hear that the holidays can be stressful times for many people – family conflict, financial issues, and the pressure of entertaining.  But what are the positive factors associated with Christmas?  A survey of adults ranging from 18 to 80 years of age explored the elements that make for a Merry Christmas, and which of them seem to matter more.

1. Spending Time With the Family.  This includes visits with relatives and the feeling of closeness.
2. Enjoying the Sensual Aspects of the Holiday.  Eating at holiday feasts, drinking at parties, etc.
3. Participating in Religious Activities.  This includes going to church services, religious pageants, and the like.
4. Maintaining Christmas Traditions.  The trimming of the tree, putting up holiday lights and displays, singing carols, etc.
5. Spending Money on Others.  Purchasing gifts for others.
6. Getting Gifts From Others.  The enjoyment of opening presents.
7.  Helping Others.  This included things like giving to the Salvation Army, feeding the homeless on Christmas, etc.

So, which of these are associated with a more “merry” Christmas?  (as measured by a scale of satisfaction with Christmas and scales of positive and negative affect).

Not surprisingly, being with family topped the list.  Eating and drinking was also associated with a more merry Christmas (presumably because this is usually done with friends and relatives).  Religious participation and holiday traditions were next in producing a merry Christmas.

Finally, it is better to give than to receive, with “spending money on others” and “Helping others” being more pleasurable than “receiving really nice gifts.” 

Overall, Christmas tends to produce more happiness than stress.  Nearly 75% of respondents said they were satisfied with their Christmas holiday, and only 44% reported experiencing stress.  Interestingly, older people and men reported more Christmas satisfaction than did younger people and women.

Wishing you the merriest Christmas!


Kasser, T., & Sheldon, K.  (2002).  What makes for a merry Christmas?  Journal of Happiness Studies, 3, 313-329.

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