To read this content please select one of the options below:

Understanding what Christmas gifts mean to children

Jenniina Halkoaho (PhD Student, in the Department of Marketing, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)
Pirjo Laaksonen (Professor, in the Department of Marketing, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 28 August 2009




The purpose of this paper is to understand what Christmas gifts mean to children by examining the features and styles of the letters that children write to Santa Claus.


Contents and style of 314 authentic letters sent by UK children to Santa Claus were analyzed using an underlying interpretive consumer research approach.


Letters to Santa contain expressions of needs, wants, desires, hopes and dreams related to Christmas. The majority of letters were identified as expressions of wants and desires, while only a few letters contained features of needs or dreaming. This implies that for children Christmas seems to be a rather unspiritual festival concerning having things rather than dreams coming true.

Research limitations/implications

The generalization of findings is limited to Western welfare societies. Letters are not originally written for research purposes, and therefore lack background information about the writers and their writing situations.

Practical implications

Analysis of letters to Santa offers an opportunity to identify the spirit of postmodern consumption with its contradictory aspects, and understand children as consumers. It is essential to recognize and understand the nature of the desires of today's children as they are an influential set of consumers.


The paper offers insights about the contemporary Christmas gift giving from the point of view of children. Contrary to previous studies, the central focus of the analysis is on gift request styles and letters as meaningful entities, not just on product categories or brands as such.



Halkoaho, J. and Laaksonen, P. (2009), "Understanding what Christmas gifts mean to children", Young Consumers, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 248-255.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles