Commercialization of Festivals and Holidays Has Eroded Their Real Significance
We have it on good authority that the commercialization of festivals and holidays - and objection to the commercialization of festivals and holidays - are ancient. Jesus of Nazareth disrupted a Passover celebration 2,000 years ago when he chased the money changers from the Temple at Jerusalem and said, “It is written, MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED THE HOUSE OF PRAYER; but ye have made it a DEN OF THIEVES.” (Mt 21:13, KJV) According to a Bloomberg article, the observance of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth has become the most commercialized holiday on the calendar.
Do you think that commercialisation of festivals and holidays has eroded their significance?
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basic aim of festival forgotten
i think the basic aim of any festival is to show our love for god and 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. Commercial establishments have a field day in these instances.
This depends on what is considered to be the basic aim of a festival. Is it simply to praise god (or as they are often from before Christ gods) or is it to have a good time? Festivals in the middle of winter were as much to banish the long nights with merryment as to praise the god(s) for the day beginning to get longer again.
If it is simply about having a good time then commercialisation makes little difference. Commercialisation can even make having a good time easier as there will be more veriety and the festival is likely to get more spectacular.
Jesus is Becoming Irrelevant to Christmas
A 2013 Rasmussen public opinion survey asked respondents whether Christmas should be more about Jesus or Santa Claus, 67 percent said Jesus. In a 2014 Rasmussen survey with the same question, 60 percent said Christmas should be more about Jesus. A Jew who resisted commercialization of Passover is becoming less important to Christmas than a man in a red suit and false beard hired by retailers to sell toys.
The Rasmussen polls were conducted in the United States. The trend toward the irrelevance of Jesus to Christmas may be more pronounced in Europe. In his paper, “Commercialization & Religious Festivals: A view from a biblical-theological perspective”, Fr. Archibald van Wieringen provides an anecdote in which the organizers of a Christmas market in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, would not rent space to a group of evangelists. The organizers believed that Jesus is not relevant to Christmas. At the Christmas market in Dordrecht, commercialization has not simply eroded the significance of Christmas, but eliminated it altogether.
We Have Forgotten What We are Observing
The word, “Halloween” is a contraction of “All Hallows Eve,” or the evening before All Hallows Day. All Hallows Day is usually referred to as All Saints Day, a Christian holy day. Many people in the United States observe secular festivities on Halloween, but do not make the connection to All Saints Day. Observance of these festivals requires the purchase of candy and costumes. In its article on All Saints Day, catholic.org observes that “The holiday has lost much of its connection to its religious origins,” and that it “…is not widely practiced or acknowledged by most Americans unless they are Catholic.”
Mental Floss reports that many of the festivities that we observe on Halloween have their roots in the pre-Christian Celtic observance of Samhain. All Saints Day was invented by a pope during the seventh century CE to turn people away from pagan rituals. Some of these rituals involved providing treats to individuals disguised as supernatural beings. In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that the percentage of Americans that identify themselves as Christian continues to drop. Even those who call themselves Christian are becoming less observant. The only thing required to return Halloween to its original significance is to give it back its original name of Samhain.
Commercialization Ruins Holidays and Festivals Worldwide
Traditionalists in China have complained about increased superficiality in the observance of festivals and holidays since China opened to Western commerce in the late 20th century. Making dumplings together as a family has traditionally been part of the festivities for some holidays. Now, some people in China purchase frozen dumplings.
In 2006, China Daily quoted Professor Gao Youpeng, of Henan University: "The Chinese are discarding the cultural meaning, spiritual values and psychological effects of many festivals to air grievances and relieve stress." Professor Gao, a folklore scholar, also said that "Globalization, urbanization and commercialization have been erasing traditional Chinese rituals and celebrations." He posted his Declaration to Safeguard the Spring Festival that same year.
Commerce Was Here First
No one knows the exact date of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Andrew McGowan, in his article “How December 25 Became Christmas” tells us that the observance of December 25th as the date of The Nativity was not decided upon by the church until 300 years after the death of Jesus. He offers several theories as to how early church leaders decided upon that date.
The United Church of God acknowledges that many customs associated with Christmas – including exchanging gifts - derive from year-end customs that predate Christianity. The article also mentions that an early church leader by the name of Origen considered the celebration of the birth of Christ to be idolatrous. Commercialization, then, is returning the winter holiday to its original significance. Exchanging gifts at Yuletide or the solstice is itself a form of commerce. Other traditions, such as drinking mulled wine or burning a Yule log, would have required some form of commerce.
To fully return the observance of the late December holiday to its original significance, we may need to simply rename it, or refrain from calling it “Christmas.” The organizers of the Christmas market would be entirely correct in their claim that Jesus has nothing to do with their Christmas market if they labeled it as a Yule market or Festivus market.
Commerce is Necessary for Holidays and Festivals
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.
What do you think?