Not Just for Christmas

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper


This is the working paper for the project ‘Not Just for Christmas: consumption, popular culture and religious observance’.
This workshop engages academic and non-academic participants in the discussion of issues surrounding ethical responses to visual culture, consumption, and their embedding in moral and religious narratives at Christmas. The interdisciplinary workshop will, through a series of events, bring diverse scholars together to critically explore the ethical dilemmas faced in contemporary cultural experience of Christmas and open a positive dialogue over how such choices are informed by popular culture and also expressed through religious symbolism and ritual. The overlapping layers of this debate, intensified during the festive season of Christmas, will be related to sustainability and ethical consumption in daily life.
The project recognises the following intersections of consumption, popular culture and religious observance:
- Broadcasting, advertising and marketing employ the reflexive ethical awareness of consumers, often expressed through resistance
- Ethical approaches to Christmas are often led by religious or charitable organisations, yet also embrace wider issues relating to all consumption
- Embedded or nested narratives of Christmas in visual culture are often appreciated independently from their religious origins, yet are nonetheless historically reliant upon them
- Ethical or spiritual concerns of consumers are translated into, or appropriated from, Christmas traditions, rituals, objects, spaces and narratives
The complex issues raised by these intersections are illustrated in media approaches to Christmas, in the religious symbolism and liturgical practices of Advent and Christmas, as well as by consumer practices and in the spaces of consumption. The workshop will, using a mixture of academic and non-academic participants, object-led and online discussion, discursive publication and public feedback, reveal flashlight issues which will offer new areas of research and inquiry, as well as provide a necessary reappraisal of Christmas in light of changing societal impulses and needs. The workshop events respond to and address complex debates which may transcend religious belief but which often rely upon shared conceptions. Such debates cover the commercialisation of Christmas and other religious festivals in the context of ethical consumption practices including Fair Trade, charity donations, gift-giving alternatives and greeting cards.
The intellectual contribution of the project will be an informed ‘user guide’ to ethical consumption and the moral and spiritual issues it raises every day, guided by serious and sustained critical debate around Christmas. This guidance will be disseminated through the archived online forum and symposium, as well as the project’s webpage. Central to this is a ‘working paper’, written in plain language for a wide audience, which will report on the critical discussion of ethical consumption, Christian narratives, and visual/popular culture. The paper frames the guidance that these discussions have for viewers, consumers and religious practitioners in making ethical choices in daily life, and not just for Christmas.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherArts and Humanities Research Council
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Christmas
  • Ethics
  • ethical consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Cultural Studies


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