What is Christmas really about?
Christmas is a very special time for people around the world. It is the season of giving, of togetherness. From being a holiday celebrated by just Catholics, Christmas has morphed into something of a global phenomenon. It is a season when families and communities get together and celebrate love, and the spirit of giving.
Although Christmas is about family, one common complaint is how grossly commercialised this holiday has become. From Christmas themed merchandise to vastly publicized Christmas sales, we really do go all out on this holiday.
When most children think of Christmas, they think of Santa Claus. Christmas-themed postcards all bear images of the old man with the big white beard. The media, and the people alike, no more remember Jesus Christ, whose birth the holiday actually commemorates. This shift in the holidays’ image is only fairly recent.
Christmas hasn’t always revolved around an engorged man with an untamed beard sliding down your chimney. Santa Claus became a Christmas icon only after Coca-Cola made him seem like the amiable old man he is today perceived to be.
After the popularisation of Coca Cola’s ‘friendly’ Santa, it was only time before merchandising began and various renditions of Santa appeared on stockings, holiday sweaters, and Christmas ornaments, alongside various other winter-related themes like reindeer, snowflakes, etc.
The Success of the Retail Industry
Along with the rise of Santa, the rise of the retail industry meant that industries started cashing in on Christmas sales. The industry profited largely during these times and started putting in more effort to maximize the ‘Christmas spirit’ and hence the amount of time and money people spent in stores. Christmas was essentially turned from a holiday into a season.
The tradition of gift-giving is a global practice that people say has been around since the beginning of humanity. For Christmas, gift giving is symbolic of the three wise men who gave Jesus gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
Giving is an important part of life in almost every culture. It brings us together, and strengthens our relationships. Over time, we have developed unique gift-giving customs and traditions.
The gifting of money is common in many cultures and religions and has been for a very long time. Today, it is a tradition for families and friends to exchange gifts on Christmas Day, which only fuels the growing holiday-related industry.
Changes in the Way We Give
We have all heard the stories growing up, that there is a legendary gift and wish granter from the North Pole—St. Nicholas, who gives us anything we may desire. If we’ve been good throughout the year, St. Nick or Santa, as he is more commonly known, will give us that toy we’ve been eyeing. If we’ve been bad—we shall receive nothing but a lump of coal.
Today, as much as these practices continue within cultures around the world, we are also seeing things change in the way we give. We now live in a modern world and our ideas are rapidly changing.
Now in the digital age, our traditional values have changed. The way we speak and communicate is changing. More specifically, the way we shop has changed—who even goes to stores anymore?
The internet has changed the way we give gifts. It is now not only possible, but is a widely accepted practice, to digitally transfer money as gifts for any and every occasion, especially Christmas.
With just a few clicks, you can send a gift to anyone, anywhere in the world. Earlier, people would spend days shopping in stores, looking for meaningful gifts. But now, with the advent of Flipkart, Amazon and numerous other e-commerce outlets, one can buy their child the bicycle they’ve been wanting, while sipping on their hot cup of Christmas cocoa.
However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. While technology and the internet may have changed the way we give, the idea and integrity of giving remains an important part of Christmas tradition. It is key to how we celebrate our relationships, our achievements, and milestones.
The advent of modern times hasn’t made us forget the art of giving, it has merely become easier to give. Although Christmas tradition has been evolving with the times, and markets have been booming with the recent commercialisation of the holiday, the spirit of Christmas remains intact.
~Rahul Alvares and Salekha Reddy for MTTN
~All images courtesy Google Images