Last year, I did a post called “When is the right time to put up the Christmas tree?” and I want to talk some more about it today because all the malls and shops in Australia have had their Christmas lights and Christmas trees up for more than a month now.
I really think it is a bit too early to start the Christmas decorations but the business minded people don’t care about these at all. They think of all these festivals as a money making opportunity. The impact of commercialization has marred the real meaning of religious and traditional customs. The shops and malls here never followed the values but instead everywhere there’s a lot of hype. During festivals, malls attract you with discounts and people go mad shopping.
As soon as Christmas is up, the shops will be filled with Easter eggs and hot cross buns in January, almost 3 months before Easter.
No matter what religion we follow, any festival has significance and value but when one commercializes festivals, that basic aim is forgotten and everyone involved is thinking, “What am I going to get on this festival?” In fact, in some instances; the festivals have been commercialized so much, that kids do not even know the significance of the festival and consider it just another holiday or just another chance to increase their material possessions.
In this way, festivals lose their real significance since their aim was first, to spread love and peace and second, to celebrate the festival keeping in mind the reason why the festival was being celebrated.
It is not only in Australia, the commercialisation of festival’s happening in Nepal as well. Previously, festivals like Dashain and Tihar were family occasions. Dashain was all about family get together and family feast and Tihar was celebrated by lighting small diyos and candles, having a small puja and burning a few crackers to rejoice the homecoming of Lord Ram from his exile on this day. Nobody cared about what you wore or what you got as a present, but instead all that mattered was having fun and appreciating the day for what it symbolized.
But today, Dashain and Tihar is all about the show of money with what one has bought for the occasion or how big the party was in one’s house, what you got as a gift etc. If parents have their kids overseas, how much money children have sent for the festivals?
Children don’t even know why they have the day off from school to celebrate that day.
Festivals are not meant to be opportunities for financial gain for brands and companies. They are meant to be occasions for religious observance and for people to understand and respect the meaning behind them. I really think, children should be taught about traditional festivals in kindergarten and we should keep the valuable elements of the traditional festivals and preserve them for future generations.
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Jews no longer perform animal sacrifices at Passover. We may see matzo ball soup mixes and other kosher products on sale at the supermarket prior to Passover, but we do not see the onslaught of advertising for these products that we see for products related to Christmas, Easter and Halloween. If the observation of a holiday or festival calls for material, then commerce must take place. If Chinese families are to make dumplings together, then someone must bring the ingredients of the dumplings to market. The Jews celebrating the Passover at the time that Jesus chased out the money changers from the Temple at Jerusalem were following the Law of Moses. Not everyone could provide a lamb for a sacrifice, so they had to find another way to observe the rituals proscribed in the book of Leviticus. The money changers filled a need. One of the theses offered by Fr. van Wieringen, in the paper mentioned above, is that “Neither secularization nor commercialization is the problem, but idolatry (or for those who prefer a different word: greed).” Perhaps it was greed to which Jesus objected when he chased the money changers from the Temple at Jerusalem, and not commerce. In his preaching, Jesus of Nazareth encouraged us to see the spirit of The Law, rather than blindly following the letter of The Law. A BBC article on Passover reminds us that the purpose of the holiday is to celebrate the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Perhaps Chinese traditionalists object to frozen dumplings because that misses the point. The purpose of having dumplings at the Spring Festival is so that families can spend time together making the dumplings. Commerce is necessary for nearly all aspects of human life. Idolatry and greed erode the significance of holidays and festivals.