Whenever I hear of Christmas, I think of the birth of Jesus Christ who was born in a manger, because there was no room for Joseph and Mary in the local inn at Bethlehem. His way of living renounced the procurement of wealth and worldly goods. Jesus warned about the deadly dangers of materialism in his message.
Two thousand years later, if I observe the Christmas celebration in our modern capitalist society, I see a fat, white chubby figure whose white beard is resting on his plump red belly, the one who is called—Santa Claus. Santa is easily recognizable because his image is splashed everywhere, apparently not as a symbol or god to worship, but as a decorative marketing tool. He is everywhere, omnipresent, omniscient; compelling people to buy overpriced gifts and load their shopping carts.
He is not that 4th century Saint Nicholas, Greek-Christian bishop known for distributing gifts and advocating for the poor. The Santa you see today in malls, marketing complexes and pretty much all around is a creation, promotion and marketing of the Coca-Cola Company. In 1931, the company started placing Coca-Cola ads in popular magazines. Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive, working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the campaign to portray a realistic Santa, who could be symbolic too. So Coca-Cola commissioned Haddon Sundblom, a Michigan-born illustrator, to develop advertising images using Santa Claus, that showed Santa in the true sense, not someone dressed up as Santa.
Between 1931 and 1964, Coca-Cola advertisements showed Santa Claus delivering toys, pausing to read a letter and enjoying a Coke, visiting children in their homes who stayed up all night to greet him, and sometimes even raiding refrigerators. Do we really want to keep celebrating Christmas in India’s Amazon-fuelled consumeristic attitude under the profile of a Coca-Cola-inspired Santa Claus? Christmas is not just a time to exchange gifts, hanging stockings, sending greetings, having dinners or shouting “Merry Christmas”. It is, in fact, the time to celebrate the birth of the Messiah who prioritized the poor and the powerless—the shepherds. Being concerned for the poor and the powerless, by not honouring the God of capitalism, is the true spirit of Christmas.
India is no stranger to income inequality, the gap, in fact, is widening further. According to the report titled ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ published by OXFAM, India’s top 1% of the population now holds 73% of the wealth while 67 crore citizens, comprising the country’s poorest half, saw their wealth rise by just 1%. Adivasis, Dalits, daily wage workers, marginal farmers and a large number of Muslims are the victims of multiple inequalities. They are poor economically and face various levels of social discrimination. Indian Exclusion Report (IXR) 2016, released by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) claims that Dalits, Adivasis, and Muslims continue to be the worst-hit communities in terms of exclusion from access to public goods.
Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ doesn’t necessarily require a secret visit from Santa. There’s simply no need for Santa to be a part of any of your choices—your internet clicks, your decorations, your cooking at home, your shopping habits, your time with your family.
Anyway, Government of India has declared 25th December as Good Governance Day and it will be a full working day. Forget Christmas, get back to work.