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Now You Can Measure Christmas Spirit

A multidimensional questionnaire helps to capture festive feelings and beliefs.

Key points

  • Despite being a popular term, Christmas spirit is surprisingly difficult to define and measure.
  • Research shows that the concept is multidimensional and captures both feelings and beliefs.
  • Key components include strong feelings of bonhomie and gay abandonment, low feelings of dejection, and enjoyment of traditions and shopping.
  • A simple questionnaire can help quantify your own levels of Christmas spirit.
Krakenimages / Unsplash
Krakenimages / Unsplash

As we count down the days of this year’s advent calendar, it is time to prepare for the annual overindulgence in food, family, and material favours that has become synonymous with Christmas. Are you in the “Christmas spirit” yet?

In the month of December, Christmas spirit appears both omnipresent and strangely elusive. While people share an intuitive understanding of the term, it is surprisingly hard to define. What does it mean to you? Listening to “Jingle Bells” on loop while munching gingerbread? Or perhaps feeling the kind of giddiness that makes you want to cover the entire living room in tinsel?

Popular media isn’t much help when trying to get to the bottom of the term. A quick Google search spits out links to Johnny Cash’s ‘63 album, where the singer describes his experience of Christmas spirit after meeting an old man at a chestnut stand. You might also stumble across several film references including somewhat far-fetched narratives of spooky Christmas inns and comatose patients spreading Christmas messages. Finally, you get the occasional advert of local rum distilleries promoting spiced liqueurs.

The Concept of Christmas Spirit

In a quest to understand the mysterious Christmas spirit, psychologists devoted several pieces of research to the topic. A survey published in the Journal of Happiness Studies tried to pin down dominant themes and Christmas feelings, identifying domains such as tradition, receiving and enjoying. Interestingly, the survey also found that meaningful family and religious experiences (as opposed to a focus on material goods) were typically associated with higher levels of self-reported happiness.

A later study published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing set out to define the concept of Christmas spirit once and for all. Additionally, the study aimed to develop a simple questionnaire measure to help us quantify a person’s festive feelings. The author tested 70 different questionnaire items and discovered five different subthemes associated with Christmas spirit.

  1. Bonhomie: Referring to a general sense of well-being and happiness, the theme of “Bonhomie” appeared as a key factor defining the elusive Christmas spirit. Typical emotions falling under the umbrella of Bonhomie include kindness, elation and exhilaration.
  2. Dejection: The second factor defining Christmas spirit was Dejection, which encapsulates all negative emotions about the festive period. People with high levels of Christmas spirit were found to score very low on all items measuring dejection, with examples including annoyance, disappointment and sadness.
  3. Gay abandonment: Capturing a sense of light-heartedness and carefree attitudes, “Gay abandonment” formed the third factor contributing to the concept of Christmas spirit.
  4. Ritualism: Another component of Christmas spirit was a sense of tradition and engagement in the rituals associated with Christmas. The respective questionnaire items captured a general love for the holiday season and measured the extent to which individuals followed cultural customs.
  5. Love of shopping: The final factor defining Christmas spirit alludes to the commercialised nature of the holiday. Enjoying and engaging in holiday shopping was a separate component of the concept.

Notably, the first three factors identified in the analysis mainly capture feelings and emotions about the festive season. By contrast, the final two factors of ritualism and shopping attitudes are better described as categories of beliefs and affective judgements. The concept of Christmas spirit therefore appears multi-dimensional spanning both feelings and beliefs.

What Is Your Christmas Spirit?

Do you side with the old Christmas Grinch or are you Santa, hat over heels immersed in the season’s delights? The recently developed questionnaire makes it easy to quantify your personal levels of Christmas spirit. While the entire list of items would surpass the scope of this post, the following selection might give you an indication where you score on the scale from party pooper to festive fairy. The higher your agreement with the statements, the more “spirited” you are likely to be.

  • Christmas makes me feel cheerful.
  • When it comes to Christmas, I follow all the traditional customs of the season.
  • Christmas makes me feel sentimental.
  • Christmas does not make me feel irritated.
  • I look forward to Christmas every year.
  • I love to Christmas shop.
  • Christmas makes me feel care-free.
  • Christmas does not make me feel sad.


Clarke, P. (2007). A measure for Christmas spirit. Journal of Consumer Marketing. 24 (1), 8-17

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