What comes to your mind when you think of the word “festival”?
If I was asked this question a decade back, I would immediately picture lights, colours, sweets, sitting with the family at a puja, even church hymns and Christmas carols. But now, when someone mentions Diwali, I think of the new clothes in the shop window which my mother promised to buy me. Christmas makes me think of the wrapped boxes sitting under the miniature tree or on my bedstead — or of the “cool new” products shown on TV which they claim are a “must-have” for the season. And I know it is not just me. Commercialisation has changed the way we look at anything in today’s world.
Advertising has channeled our minds in such a way that we only think of what we stand to gain during a festival. Gone are the “festivals” I knew as a child — back when 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. Weeks ahead of Christmas, Easter, Diwali, or almost any other existing festival, we see advertisement boards on the streets flashing their discounts and their “specials”, and turning on the TV means being shown about a hundred different advertisements about different brands and their attempt at “spreading the festive cheer” and using the season as an excuse to exploit the wallets of eager consumers.
Commercialisation of festivals has eaten into the essence of why we celebrate these festivals and is also accused by many of being a “sacrilege”. A main concern, especially for environmentalists, is the commercialisation of Diwali, and the use of firecrackers, which cause various types of pollution, which make conditions worse for humans as well as animals.
If we think of festivals as simply another way of indulging ourselves and spending money, it ruins the very purpose of the religious celebration. The effect of commercialisation can be seen especially in young children — how many kids are there who are more concerned with why Christmas or Holi are celebrated, than about what they will be receiving for them? 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.