Although much has been written about the celebration of Christmas from a variety of perspectives, limited attention has been paid in the consumer behaviour literature to understanding the behaviours of consumers surrounding this event. Apart from insights gained from prior work on consumption rituals and meanings of festivities, our knowledge of meaning creation through Christmas consumption is partial, and written mainly from a North American perspective. Since consumer behaviour is shaped by cultural and social contexts, understanding the relationship between consumption objects and the social meanings that consumers ascribe to them is a research imperative. This paper explores the ways in which the British Christmas is consumed as a shared consumption experience, by bringing together two different approaches taken by consumer researchers and sociologists to analysing social consumption patterns. These are drawn from structuralist and post-structuralist thinking. The findings of an exploratory qualitative study are used to demonstrate how an enhanced understanding of consumption meanings associated with this particular cultural context can lead to new insights into how consumers create social meanings through special, as well as ordinary, behaviours.
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.