One doesn’t need a degree in linguistics to see that the word holiday was at some point synonymous with “holy day”. However, that is no longer the case. Free market capitalism has led to the commercialization of holidays — after all, holidays are a sizable market to exploit.
Unfortunately, that process has taken away the soul of the celebration: By encouraging blind purchases, companies are contributing to the loss of the original religious and moral value of holidays. Although it cannot be halted altogether, commercial advertisement of holidays should be severely decreased not only to increase the value of faith but also to save the idea of tolerance.
Capitalism has led to such stiff competition among market players that businesses often exploit the customs of religious holidays in order to make a profit. That would all be well and good if such competition contributed to the true spirit of the occasion without detracting from its sanctity.
However, holiday season advertising today is straying further and further away from the true meaning of holidays. Easter has fallen prey to candy and Cool Whip, Valentine’s Day to chocolate and negligee.
It seems that the love and the devotion once so closely associated with those two holidays have recently played only a cameo in a new story of bought affection. The race for profit has left the devotees to the original intent out in the cold; the growing expenses of their faith discourage them, and not just because their wallets are growing thinner.
Commercialization would be far less sinister if the information about holidays and their religious aspects were accurately presented in advertising: Because industry has added sensuality and exorbitance to commercials, the values the most pious practitioners hold dear have been eclipsed. People new to such holidays are merely left to assume what the television tells them, especially in our current media- and technology-obsessed era.
By solely highlighting the monetary aspect of such days as Christmas and Thanksgiving, commercialization erases our ability to understand others and the original idea of tolerance is forgotten.
Current advertising of holidays is simplifying religion for the general public. Frequently, all that people know about holidays is when they are and what everyone should buy to celebrate them properly.
In countries such as Malaysia and India, where many religions are well represented, schoolchildren merely scrounge through the calendar for the Christian, Muslim, and Hindu holidays that give them days off.
The problem is that people are satisfied with what commercials tell them about holidays. If such commercial advertising were to decrease, people would actually have to pick up literature to learn about religions and gain a real tolerance. Heaven forbid.
The lowered advertising would in no way obscure religious events — rather, it would just incentivize people to learn about the origins of holidays themselves rather than accept prepackaged, superficial synopses.
Why does the religious meaning behind holidays matter? It could be said that if everyone had complete conviction in their religion, those so-called truths would definitely conflict in a violent manner. However, the ultimate purpose of religion is to restore faith in the idea that there should be love within mankind.
Hinduism, for example, maintains as one of its principle pillars complete tolerance for all man. Surely there are fundamental claims and beliefs that clash among the plethora of spiritualities, but despite that, if people had a more thorough knowledge of their own faith, they would be willing to explore the reasoning behind its polar differences with other religions.
With deeper understanding, dialogues would stray away from being fervent shouting matches and disastrous threats and move towards being an open forum for peaceful debate.
But what is there to do? The free market system is clearly relentless in its consequences. The world is becoming more westernized, and since the tradition of commercialization began in the West, other countries are now flooding the media with advertisements of Diwali, Hanukkah and other holidays. Because capitalism has accumulated a lot of inertia, it will be up to religious leaders to warn against the commercializing tendencies of advertising.
The motives of these holidays are not to boast wealth, but to observe faith. The less people worry about pretty wrapped boxes with prizes inside, the more people can respect the true values behind “holy days”.