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Importing holiday celebrations

Like Halloween, a whole range of ‘Days’ and ‘Observances’ have become a part of our cultural almanac since the post liberalisation years.

Importing holiday celebrations
Representative image

CHENNAI: The annual observance of Halloween just passed us by, with the day being overshadowed by a tragic development that transpired in South Korea, where over 150 people lost their lives in the midst of celebrating the special day. In many parts of India, or at least in the top tier metros, the occasion emerged as an excuse for commercial establishments, especially those in the food, hospitality and travel business to go overboard on the promotions. Special Halloween-themed parties for kids of all ages, as well as curated entertainment options for adults have become symbolic of the end of October. What is also being witnessed is how new-age, post-baby boomer generation parents with deep pockets have soaked in the spirit of this predominantly pagan custom and set aside specific budgets for rituals like trick or treating in townships and residential blocks, costume parties, scary movie nights and so-on.

Like Halloween, a whole range of ‘Days’ and ‘Observances’ have become a part of our cultural almanac since the post liberalisation years. Apart from our usual religious festivals and holidays, which include the various Jayantis, Parvs, Poornimas and Diwas, we have a huge selection of days that need to be commemorated, some through a holiday, others through a token observance and many through passive engagement. In India, many observances including those like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Friendship Day and so on, have assumed a festive fervour, no less. In the case of Valentine’s Day, it has even sparked national debates and senseless episodes of moral policing where young couples have been slapped around, shamed and admonished in public for something as innocuous as holding hands.

This brings us to the question of cultural appropriation, which has now become a part of the lexicon of youngsters across the world. The fanfare around observances like Halloween or Valentine’s Day has spawned cottage industries that thrive on acts of consumerist gratification. It’s a trend that has latched on to almost every festive occasion celebrated in the country. The age-old, traditional festivals have now become the equivalent of the food at a fine dining restaurant whose only function is to look good on photo sharing apps after the right filters are applied. Devoid of any historic, cultural or traditional references, we risk relegating our own indigenous revelries into flashy displays of purchasing power.

This is not to imply that there is anything wrong in assimilating traditions from the world over. But it’s essential that we help youngsters imbibe our own traditional observances with the same reverence that we reserve for the newly imported celebrations.

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