Regardless of the International Relations Theory we use to analyse the International System, even if we consider international relations to be a zero-sum game, or a cooperative game, it is now indisputable that the search for the power of the States far transcends the utilization of military and economic resources – hard power – that they have. As Professor Emeritus of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Joseph Nye Jr., has suggested, deeply in “Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (2004)”, since the late of 1980, the influence of one State over others can be exercised through the State’s ability to attract and to co-opt others, namely the Soft Power. In this brief article, I will look at this non-coercive form of exercising power, as well as Christmas Eve as a religious celebration (an instrument of exercising power at the state’s service) and a global phenomenon, who’s the geopolitical dimension of it is worth to take into consideration.
The initiation of Christmas Eve, as a celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth and a religious celebration, dates to the 4th century, however it can have authors that defend the beginning of the celebration as way before, once the existing documents are not clear. Since then, Christianity is accumulating believers and today is the religion with more followers in the World (about 2,382,750,000 people), which corresponds to approximately 31.1% of the world population. Despite those facts, and despite the number of Christians around the world, the number of people that celebrate Christmas is clearly higher.
When we look to a certain country, namely United States of America (and you will realize why did I choose USA), it is possible to realize that 93% of the American population celebrate Christmas, even though only 71% are Christians. Therefore, why almost 22% of the American people celebrate the 25th of December? The explanation goes under Christmas, progressively, being reformulated into the American society and transforming itself more in a cultural event than a religious celebration. Regarding the American think tank, Pew Research Center, the percentage of people that believe in the Christmas Bible narrative suffered an eight-point percentage drop- from 65% to 57%- between 2014 and 2017. Simultaneously, increasingly people prefer institutional Christmas greetings less related to religion, or increasingly more people care less with it. From 2005 to 2017, the percentage of people preferring the expression “merry Christmas” dropped 11% (from 43% to 32%) while the preference for the expressions “Happy holidays/Season’s greetings” increased 3% (from 12% to 15%), and the indifference is 7% (from 45% to 52%). Taking this into consideration, if the religious disbelief has dropped, but the percentage of people celebrating Christmas keeps considerable constant during the years, we can state there is something that holds this phenomenon and fulfil the emptiness letter by the religion.
Figuring out what fills this void is not a particularly difficult exercise to solve. Large American industries are authentic money-making machines and more important these days to shape people’s thinking. So, if the industries do it to obtain the greatest possible value, the States do it to carry out their interests. Amongst the States, and because Christmas as we know it in most of the World that celebrates it, also have been originated in the same place, the United States is the one that best seizes the occasion to project its culture, its values, and, of course, its interests. In any of the 160 countries that celebrate Christmas in some way, it will be difficult to turn on television today and do not see a film produced by the Hollywood industry, which worldwide are already dubbed the “Christmas classics”. Also, is impossible to turn on radio and do not be impacted by any of the hits that every year pass almost in loop on the 24th and 25th of December, and that take over the world tops of the music streaming platforms by this time of the year. I want to emphasize that, for the United States, the exportation of these contents by itself is not relevant. What is relevant is the narrative that is passed through these channels, namely the values of freedom, consumption, and its international policy that is relevant to be internalized by the populations of other States in a positive way, so that individuals, in those who are their fields of action, can act and take decisions that meet the American interests (even unconsciously).
Being a date celebrated abroad by billions of people, Christmas is an extraordinary showcase for States to work on their image, and, more objectively, to see their international agenda carried forward or even, fulfilled. For now, in this eternal game for the search of power, the Western World is winning, with the United States showing the way.