It’s allegedly the most wonderful time of the year for enjoying time off. The majority of us, regardless of religious persuasion, typically don’t have to work during the holidays, especially on Christmas. The Western World enjoys a brief pause, as our hyper Christmas consumerism culminates in the mass-shutdown of nearly everything. Christmas creates a unique phenomenon, where the masses sit idle while relatively few stores and eateries remain open. But that is changing, as more Americans find themselves working on the once-sacred holiday, as there are an increasing number of places that don’t close their doors.
Holiday boredom was a tradition old as time. Now, there’s more places than ever that stay open on Christmas, and that’s changing the culture of having guaranteed time off. The decline of manufacturing and the rise of a consumer-driven economy means that service industry jobs are the new normal. Millennials are more likely to work in the service industry than non-millennials. That leaves many in the younger demographic working during the holiday season.
While big-box retailers such as Walmart are closed on Christmas, many fast food joints stay open. That means your local barista at Starbucks and your regular sandwich artist at Subway might find themselves working. Thousands of sit-down restaurants also stay open, so waiters across America labor on the holiday, as do workers in resort towns like Orlando, FL and Las Vegas, NV (Disney, Universal, Seaworld, and every casino in Vegas don’t close on Christmas). Many millennials now find themselves in the same position where hospital workers, police, and firefighters have always been–Christmas is a very busy season at work.
For the rest us who are blessed with paid time off, millennials are changing what it means to celebrate Christmas. Traditionally, the holidays have been largely about family time. It’s seems to be a requirement for any non-dysfunctional family to convene and exchange presents. Once that’s over, then what? What if you don’t have a 1950’s style household? Today most of us don’t have our own nuclear families, as many of us are single and childless. In fact, singles outnumber married people in America, and just under half of women between the ages of 15-44 have never had children. For the single and young, Christmas celebrations are over the moment you leave your parents’ house.
Additionally, a growing number of us don’t celebrate Christmas. Almost 23% of Americans aren’t religious, and another 6% identify with a non-Christian faith. While most still readily identify as Christian, many are questioning the connection between the birth of Christ and the celebration of a holiday that’s becoming increasingly about costly consumerism above all else. For those of us who exchange gifts, the costs are staggering. A survey taken a few years ago found that 45% of Americans would skip out on Christmas because of the financial stress it creates.
Despite the changing demographics, whether you’re a Christmas lover or a bah-humbug, Christmas is here to stay. Considering you start to see Christmas merchandise in stores after Halloween, and holiday-themed music blares on every radio station, Christmas is something we can hardly ignore. But time-off is no longer guaranteed, and an increasing number of us are non-observers. As millennial norms become more entrenched in our culture, it will be interesting to see how we celebrate Christmas in the years to come.