Posts tagged with: christmas

IMG_1902In his many addresses to the nation, President Calvin Coolidge made a point of routinely redirecting the country’s attention to the “things of the spirit.”

In his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, he encouraged the country to reorient its vision of abundance, progressing not only in material prosperity, but also “in moral and spiritual things.” In his reflections on the Declaration of Independence, he reminded us that ours is a liberty not meant for “pagan materialism,” which would surely turn our prosperity into “a barren sceptre in our grasp.” Years earlier, as President of the Massachusetts Senate, he urged legislators to remember that “statutes must appeal to more than material welfare.” “Man has a spiritual nature,” he continued. “Touch it, and it must respond as the magnet responds to the pole.”

All in all, the message was consistent: “The things of the spirit come first.” For Coolidge, America had entered an “age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things,” and thus, was in sore need of such reminders. When it came to an occasion such as Christmas — a season compounded with those same temptations of materialism — the theme would continue.

“Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind,” Coolidge wrote in a 1927 Christmas greeting. “To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things there will be born in us a Savior and over us all will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world.” That short refrain is likely the most widely read of Coolidge’s reflections on Christmas, but after the presidency, he offered a more extended view. (more…)

As the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world, Christmas produces many things—joy, happiness, gratitude, reverence. And numbers. Lots of peculiar, often large, numbers. Here are a few to contemplate this season:

Christmas Numbers$50.82 – Average amount U.S. consumers spent on real Christmas trees in 2015.

$69.38 – Average amount U.S. consumers spent on fake Christmas trees in 2015.

33,000,000 – Number of real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. each year.

9,500,000 – Number of fake Christmas trees sold each year.

7 – Average growing time in years for a Christmas tree.

350 million – Number of Christmas trees currently growing on Christmas tree farms.

325.1 million – Current population of the United State.

$27.21 — The energy costs of lighting a six-foot Christmas tree, lit 12 hours a day for 40 days, decorated with various light types.

$1,100,000,000 – Estimated value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and September 2016.

$23,800,000,000 – Estimated retail sales by the nation’s department stores (including leased departments) in December 2014. This represents an A decrease of $0.4 billion in retail sales from December of the previous year.

750,000 – Number of new employees hired to compensate for the holiday rush in 2015.

37.5 percent — Estimated percentage of charitable giving that occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

$752 – Average amount people in the U.S. estimated they’ll spent in on Christmas presents in 2016.

108,000,000 — Average number of homes Santa Claus has to visit on December 25 (assuming there is at least one “nice” child in each).

12-daysIf you’ve been stuck at the mall listening to a song about ten Lords a-Leaping and eight Maids a-Milking you can blame the Jesuits.

Rumor has it they invented the Twelve Days of Christmas song as a catechism in code for persecuted Catholics in 16th-century England. The claim is that each of the items has a coded meaning (Old and New Testaments are the two turtle doves; three hens are the Wise Men; the Evangelists are the four calling birds; five gold rings speak of the five sacraments that should be received by all Catholics, etc.).

Whether that is true or not we’ll leave to the musicologists to decide. Since this is an economics blog will look at another question: How much would all that stuff cost?
(more…)

During a season such as Christmas, where hyper-consumerism and hyper-generosity converge in strange and mysterious ways, it’s a question worth asking: How much of our gift-giving is inefficient and wasteful?

For some, it’s a buzz-kill question worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge. For an economist, however, it’s a prod that pushes us to create more value and better align our hearts and hands with human needs.

In a new video at Marginal Revolution, economists Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrock explore this at length, asking how we might maximize the value of gift-giving:

For Cowen and Tabarrock, gift-giving typically suffers from knowledge and incentive problems. “When people buy something for themselves, value is created, because the buyer values the good more than it costs the seller to produce,” Tabarrock explains. “But when people give gifts that aren’t wanted, the recipient values the gifts at less than the cost. Gift-giving: it can be kind of a negative trade.” (more…)

With Christmas just around the corner, we at the Acton Institute would like to pause and share with all of you our warmest wishes for a blessed Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year to all of our friends and supporters. Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico recorded this personal Christmas greeting, and we’re pleased to share it with you now.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
By

savior-of-the-world_t_ntChristmas is the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world. Here are five factsyou should know about the annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus:

1. No one knows what day or month Jesus was born (though some scholars speculate that it was in September). The earliest evidence for the observance of December 25 as the birthday of Christ appears in the Philocalian Calendar, composed in Rome in 336.

2. Despite the impression given by many nativity plays and Christmas carols, the Bible doesn’t specify: that Mary rode a donkey; that an innkeeper turned away Mary and Joseph (only that there was no room at the inn); that Mary gave birth to Jesus the day she arrived in Bethlehem (only that it happened “while they were there”); that angels sang (only that the “heavenly host” spoke and praised God); that there were three wise men (no number is specified); or that the Magi arrived the day/night of Jesus’ birth. Rather than being born in a stable, Jesus was likely born in a cave or a shelter built into a hillside. As Sarah E. Dahl explains, the hills around Bethlehem were dotted with small caves for feeding and boarding livestock. The exact site of Jesus’ birth is unknown, but by the third century, tradition had established a probable cavern. Constantine’s mother, Helena, erected the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem over the small space.
(more…)

carolers2Over the last century, Christianity has declined in social influence across much of the Western world, leading many to believe it has little place or purpose in public life.

In response, Christian reactions have varied, with the more typical approaches being fortification (“hide!”), domination (“fight!”), or accommodation (“blend in!”). In each case, the response takes the shape of heavy-handed strategery or top-down mobilization, whether to or from the hills.

And yet the cultural witness of the church ought to flow (or overflow) a bit differently. For Greg Forster, it has less to do with “cultural lever-pulling,” and a whole lot more to do with joy.

“Christianity is losing its influence in contemporary America because people outside the church just don’t encounter the joy of God as much as they used to,” Forster writes in his latest book, Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It. “…The joy of God can do what cultural lever-pulling can’t do.”

As we experience the joy of God in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, our attitudes and activities are transformed. As Christians, our primary task is not to take that transformation and funnel it toward end-game tactics, but to faithfully embody it across culture: blessing our neighbors and cultivating civilization, whether in the family, our work and the economy, or citizenship and community (Forster’s three main categories). (more…)