I would like to wish merry Christmas for those who celebrating, but this article is not about religious spirit or peace or whatever people usually would talk about Christmas. Here I am trying initiate a discussion on “How Christmas transformed to a Global Event from a religious event.
In a popular FB group someone asked “why Christmas become a national celebration despite the population of Catholics in Sri Lanka “ . I am not sure about his intensions, but it made me invests some thoughts on the matter .
For the followers of Christianity, Christmas still is a religious festival , but unlike the religious festival of other major religions Christmas becomes a worldwide celebration/event where people from other faiths often get involved somehow. For this I see 3 major reasons
- Inclusive religious practice
- Time of the year
Due to the colonization Christianity become the largest religion of the world which spread through entire world. Europe, America and parts of Africa dominated by Christianity while having significant presence in Asia as well. In terms of population Islam is catching up fast but larger portion of them resides in few countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria, therefore the geographical dominance of Christianity still intact
Having more countries to celebrate Christmas as a religious event alone enough to make it a significant global event , but when most of Rich countries do it , the impact is much higher . Business decisions, marketing strategies are geared towards Big spenders who prepares for their biggest celebration making Christmas highly commercialized event. The big chuck of Global Event named Christmas can be attributed to the this marketing sub culture of Christmas where Christmas trees and Santa Clause is highlighted than Jesus
Modern day culture highly influenced by western principles (I am not implying this is wrong) , be it movies , songs , advertisements or TV western world set the strategies and trends where most of the free world following it . Due to economical and social reasons Christmas plays a vital part in these cultural items – which is obvious and others follows the lead and create a “Christmas culture” even in countries where Christianity is a minority
Contrary to what Catholics /Christians will say they are following their religion more loosely compared to other Abrahamic religions today(not historically ) . If not world would have been a much chaotic place.
Modern day Christmas practices are inclusive so that people from other faiths too can participate to some extent. Decorating a Christmas tree or dressing as Santa may not be spiritual but those are common practices among Catholics where others get involved too.
Buddhism and Hinduism are inclusive by nature and that can be seen where those are the majority (Except for Politically driven intolerance activities). But only the dominance factors (Economical and Cultural) of Christmas make people from other faiths to be involved to Christmas even they the majority.
Time of the Year
Many countries have their own New Year celebrations, but January 1st become the official “New Year” in global sense (This again happened due to dominance factor I talked about) . For countries who celebrate Christmas in religious sense , having “New Year” nearby makes a long holiday period – extended celebration time in other words . Seasonal changes also add another taste to it where applicable
Even without those, modern business practices too contribute to make this “Time of the year” different than others (Western influence is there as well) . With calendar year ending most business organizations throw parties for their employees. Most of the time parties are named as “Christmas parties “and Christmas trees and Santa suites will be there as well , even though those parties doesn’t have to anything with the birth of Jesus .
Organizations also pays Annual Bonuses in December making non – Christians too financially capable at the time of the Christmas . So the Christmas marketing strategies works in Catholic countries works well in other countries as well
The situation in Sri Lanka
Christianity is the 4th largest of Sri Lanka, but Christmas surely is the second most celebrated Religious event and it would be 3rd if we count Sinhala – Tamil New Year as a religious event. Hinduism and Islam in Sri Lanka are followed by specific ethnic groups making them more closed events regardless of the population (Islam by nature and practice closed for people from other faiths )
Sri Lankan Catholics belongs to both Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic groups and usually their religious identity does not surpass their ethnical identities . Also Catholic –Buddhist /Hindu cross religious marriages are quiet common, making Christmas traditions more open for Buddhists and Hindu communities. So Christmas parties , Christmas trees and Santa clause are familiar for many non-Christian Sri Lankans as well . They may not be going to church at night ( I don’t know whether non-Christians are allowed or not ) , but involved in many other Christmas related activities as groups or individuals.
Apart from the all global reasons mentioned above, this nature of Sri Lanka helped Christmas become a National Event as well
As a person who doesn’t have a religion I am not interested about the birth of Jesus , but I always interested in some cultural part of the religions and similarly interested in some of Christmas traditions as well . So I am not hesitated to decorate a tree or wearing a Santa hat and wish my catholic friends a merry Christmas.
Do you think different reasons caused Christmas to become National / Global event please comment !
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