Unless you live in the world's smallest cave in the smallest American town, it's unlikely that every single person you meet celebrates Christmas, and Christmas only. Yet, in America, that's often how we act. Most winter celebrations and promotions happening after Halloween center fully on Christmas, when in fact there are many holidays and events happening from fall through winter.
As a retailer or other organic business owner, it makes sense to focus on Christmas. Christmas is a huge event, with some 83% + of Americans in a given year saying that this is the main holiday they celebrate. However, realize that it's not the only event worth being aware of.
In terms of reaching beyond a single holiday, I like how Austin Cline puts it, "As the religious pluralism of America increases, so must the sensitivity of its citizens. The fewer traditional Christians there are around, the less people can assume that everyone is celebrating the usual Christian holidays and doing the usual Christian things. It's impolite to make assumptions about people you don't know."
I'm not so sure I'd go as far to say it's impolite, as Cline does, but I do believe it's uninformed to assume everyone celebrates Christmas, and I very much agree that USA citizens could use a nice dose of sensitivity.
No one is saying give up Christmas but there are some compelling reasons to include other events in your holiday marketing plans. For one thing, you may have employees who celebrate various holidays and it's nice to make sure that everyone feels respected and celebrated. Also, by acknowledging other holiday events, you're creating a business model that's welcoming to more people. Lastly, if you can bring in other holiday products that your customers may be looking for, why not? Selling more isn't a bad deal for any business.
I highly suggest reading the positive, Celebrating the Holidays, the Culturally Sensitive Way - this article makes no excuses for any holidays and has some excellent points about how the many holidays are more alike than we know. Also well worth a read is Multicultural Marketing in Contemporary U.S. Markets (pdf).
Beyond holiday considerations, if all you're focused on is Christmas, you may not be planning as well for some of the other major events that happen this time of year, say like Black Friday.
EASY TIP: Consider how your store or business greets people during the holidays. A simple, "Happy holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" is an easy way to generalize holiday greetings in a way that singles no one out.
When is it?: Always the 4th Thursday in November.
Many would argue that no one forgets Thanksgiving. We're talking about a major holiday here. But look around and I'd wager what you see is many stores (both online and brick and mortar) skipping straight from Halloween to Christmas. In terms of organic businesses that produce or sell food, this is a huge mistake.
Americans spend a lot on Thanksgiving, not to mention, everyone is hyper focused on food this time of year, making it the ideal time to inform customers about organics. In fact, you really have to inform customers about the benefits of organics this time of year to counteract articles claiming it's too expensive to go organic.
Learn more about Thanksgiving
3. Black Friday
When is it?: Always the Friday after Thanksgiving.
2011 was a banner year for Black Friday, with sales hitting a record $52.4 billion, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. If you're in organic retail or own an organic business of any kind, you can reap rewards by including solid Black Friday plans in your marketing goals.
Learn more about Black Friday
4. Cyber Monday
When is it?: Always the first Monday after Thanksgiving.
Ignoring Cyber Monday could be detrimental. comScore reports that in 2011, U.S. consumers spent a record $1.25 billion online on Cyber Monday. That astounding figure marks just the second time that the United States has EVER spent more than $1 billion online in a single day. If you have an online shop, Cyber Monday participation is a must.
Learn more about Cyber Monday
When is it?: The first day of winter and Winter Solstice are on the same day - usually on the 21st of December, but sometimes on the 22nd.
The actual season of winter is a great thing to celebrate and many more people than you know celebrate Winter Solstice. Celebrating these two co-inhabiting events is smart, because not only can your celebrations focus on goods people need during the winter (think organic cocoa, seasonal veggies and coffee), but people enjoy celebrating changes in the season.
Learn more about Winter & Winter Solstice
When is it?: December 8 through December 16 in 2012, but it changes from year to year.
According to polls, only 5% of Americans celebrate Hanukkah, although different surveys show larger or smaller percentages. There are actually far more important Jewish holidays than Hanukkah from a cultural and historical viewpoint, such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot to name a few, yet that hasn't stopped Hanukkah from becoming the most celebrated Jewish holiday here in the U.S.
Learn more about Hanukkah
- Hanukkah Food Traditions
- Hanukkah Presents Unique Marketing Challenges for Retailers
- 5 Tips for Hanukkah Marketing
- From a Jew: America can ignore Hanukkah. It needs Christmas. (sort of an anti-slant, but an interesting read).
When is it?: Always on December 26th.
Kwanzaa is not associated with a major religion, which is rare among winter holidays. Still, Kwanzaa is now a mainstream and accepted holiday tradition. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service has even issued more than one annual Kwanzaa stamp. According to the National Retail Foundation around 13% of African Americans observe Kwanzaa (about 4.7 million people), not counting other races who observe the holiday.
Learn more about Kwanzaa
8. New Years
When is it?: New Years Eve falls on December 31st while of course, New Years Day follows on January 1st.
Recognizing New Years allows for some clever marketing campaigns, such as healthy resolutions that often appeal to organic consumers, such as getting fit, going green and eating organic. It also allows for sales of unique items such as organic wine, beer and other drinks plus plenty of party food items. This is also a great time of year to introduce new organic products. Also, in terms of your own business and employees, it's a great time of year to set new business goals.
Learn more about New Years Eve & New Years Day
When is it?: Chinese New Year starts anytime between late January and mid-February. The date varies year to year.
Chinese New Year is by far considered the most important holiday in China. It's also the longest holiday in China, clocking in at 15 days. If you live in an area that has its own Chinatown, you're probably aware that Chinese New Year celebrations are ongoing for about a month, making this an important holiday to recognize if you live in the area. Plus, if Tea Leaf Nation and Hidden Harmonies are any indication, folks spend a lot on this holiday, even in America.