Is Christmas bad for the Economy?

Readers who are spending this week returning gifts they don’t really want – or those who think Wal-Mart playing Jingle Bells beginning the week before Thanksgiving is one of the greatest crimes against humanity – might be interested in a couple of articles on economists view that Christmas is bad for the economy: a 1990 piece from the New Republic and a 2006 article in the Wall Street Journal (HT Club for Growth).

That is, it is not the celebration of Christ’s birth itself (though let’s face it, gold was a much better gift than frankincense and myrrh), but the commercialization which results in buying gifts that are largely unwanted or even buying Christmas themed items – fruitcakes, wrapping paper, decorations, etc. – that have little economic utility and result in “dead weight loss” to the economy. 

This may make economists sound like the Grinch – but recall, at the end of Dr. Seuss’s tale, the Whos down in Whoville celebrate Christmas even after the Grinch steals their presents, trees, food, and misletoe.