Capitalizing on Christmas
Are your holiday celebrations religious, or just family tradition? It seems that Christian holidays and traditions, especially Christmas and Easter, have been commercialized to such an extent that they have nearly become meaningless. Many Muslims or Buddhists will put up a Christmas tree and exchange gifts for Christmas, despite a lack of religious significance, merely because it is the social norm in North America.
An article from Religion News Service focuses on the commercialization of the Christian advent, giving examples of cosmetic, candy, beer, tea, and even Lego advent calendars. These calendars are used as Christmas gifts, and ways to celebrate the approaching winter holidays. In Christian beliefs, however, the Advent is “the four-week Christian period of introspection and preparation leading up to the birth of Jesus,” according to the article. It seems that between family tradition, social norms, and commercialization, Christmas and the Christian traditions surrounding it have become less meaningful in an attempt to make them more universal, even secular.
Is this commercialization positive or negative for society? In some respects, it could seem that the celebration of Christian traditions as a social norm is positive, because it shows respect for believe systems other than one’s own. Many immigrants new to North America will adopt Christian traditions, such as putting up a Christmas tree, to help them integrate into the new society. In return, greetings of ‘Merry Christmas’ are frequently changed to ‘Happy Holidays’ to encompass all belief systems. However, the commercialization of Christmas seems to be disrespectful on many levels, as the Christian traditions are being confused with celebration of the winter solstice and holiday season in general. When non-Christians buy advent calendars or celebrate on the 25th, they are appreciating the holidays, not celebrating the birth of Christ, and the meaning of the Christian holiday is gradually lost behind the commercialization of it. Similarly, non-Christians may feel that their beliefs are less significant, because while advent calendars and Christmas trees frequent the stores, finding traditional Muslim garments or even a Hanukkah Menorah are much more difficult. This makes the commercialization of Christmas harmful to religion in two-fold: Christian beliefs become meaningless, and non-Christians feel that their beliefs are less important than Christian ones.
The loss of the sacredness of Christian traditions as they become increasingly commercial is a disturbing concept. Sacredness is key in defining a religion, and is even involved in Ninian Smart’s definition of one, as he states, religion is “a set of institutionalized rituals, identified with a tradition and expressing and/or evoking sacral sentiments directed at a divine or trans-divine focus” reiterating the toll loss of sacredness in favour of universality has on Christianity as a religion. The commercial nature of Christmas, as well as other Christian holidays, could be making Christian traditions social norms and integrated part of society without concern for their religious significance.
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Capitalizing on Christmas