Last year–too late to do much good–we ran a post about some research done on the harms caused by Christmas trees in public places. I was especially concerned about universities. The university is an environment that’s stressful for many people to start with and it seems the tree has become an acceptable display of secular Christmas. Don’t most university campuses have Christmas trees? The one I’m at does.
Here’s last year’s post reprinted in time to do things differently:
“Reminders of Christmas can make religious minorities feel ill at ease — even if they don’t realize it. When people who did not celebrate Christmas or who did not identify as Christian filled out surveys about their moods while in the same room as a small Christmas tree, they reported less self-assurance and fewer positive feelings than if they hadn’t been reminded of the holiday, according to a new study.” The full news story is here.
The researcher Michael Schmitt, a social psychologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada said, the presence of the tree caused non-celebrators and non-Christians to feel subtly excluded.
“Simply having this 12-inch Christmas tree in the room with them made them feel less included in the university as a whole, which to me is a pretty powerful effect from one 12-inch Christmas tree in one psychology lab,” said Schmitt. Study participants did not know the study was about the effects of Christmas trees.
“Identity moderates the effects of Christmas displays on mood, self-esteem, and inclusion
Identity moderates the effects of Christmas displays on mood, self-esteem, and inclusion,”
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (November 2010), 46 (6), pg. 1017-1022.
Abstract: In two experiments we examined the differential psychological consequences of being in the presence of a Christmas display on participants who did or did not celebrate Christmas (Study 1), or who identified as Christian, Buddhist, or Sikh (Study 2). Participants completed measures of psychological well-being in a cubicle that either did or did not contain a small Christmas display. Across several indicators of well-being, the display harmed non-celebrators and non-Christians, but enhanced well-being for celebrators and Christians. In Study 2, we found that the negative effect of the display on non-Christians was mediated by reduced feelings of inclusion. The results raise concerns about the ubiquitous presence of dominant cultural symbols (such as Christmas displays) in culturally diverse societies.