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The Holiday Industry: A Money-Making Machine?

Although many of our holidays are rooted in religious and cultural traditions, we now live in a world where these special events are largely commercialised and their core values forgotten. The phenomenon is so wide-scaled that we have even created a formal category for holidays such as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day which seem to exist primarily to benefit privately-owned companies: The “Hallmark Holiday”. Enter any gift shop, card shop or supermarket, any time of the year, and they will be, without fail, advertising one festivity or another. After Halloween costumes come down, Christmas decorations are on the shelves, then comes Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and so on. We so often forget the meaning behind the event, instead focusing our efforts on the materialistic process of buying gifts and decorations. The commercialisation of holidays is so prevalent within our culture– is there any way out of it?
 
 
Here are some examples of celebrations that exemplify how greed for money has changed our perception of holidays: 
 
Easter
 
Easter will be celebrated on the 20th of April this year, but chocolate eggs have been on sale since January in some shops. Easter was originally a Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Christ three days after his crucifixion. The custom of giving eggs at Easter symbolises the celebration of new life. In many countries parents tell their children that the Easter Bunny has hidden chocolate eggs and they race to find them around the house or garden. Accordingly, businesses now fill their shelves with attractive goods – baskets, chocolate, toys, all beautifully designed, but without any connection to the true values of Easter. How many people really know and appreciate the meaning of those symbols? 
 
 
Christmas
 
Christmas is another Christian celebration, though some of its customs are pagan in origin. One of the main reasons for the customary giving and receiving of presents is to remind us of the gifts given to Jesus by the Three Wise Men. Similarly, there is no Christmas without a Christmas tree– but not many people know why this has become a tradition. The evergreen fir tree was traditionally used to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years, and its use as a symbol of eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Each Christmas is filled with gifts, decorations and customs that are linked with the actual festivity, but sadly commercialisation does not allow us to appreciate that.
 
Mother’s Day
 
Yes we love our mothers; yes we would like to show that love all year round. But let’s be realistic: we are often too focused on our own lives that we take our mothers for granted. I believe that Mother’s Day should exist because for at least one day in the year we are all thinking of our mothers and appreciating their dedication to us. But this does not mean that Mother’s Day should be about finding the perfect gift as the world would have us believe. Perfumes, flowers, gift vouchers– the market has everything a woman would want. There’s nothing wrong in trying to find something that our mothers would love. However, let’s not forget the real purpose of the celebration: appreciating how great a mother is.
 
 
 
Valentine’s Day
 
Valentine’s Day originally commemorated a Christian martyr named Valentine. Before the Christian era it was also a pagan fertility festival. Today, however, it has turned into a very profitable industry driving sales of chocolate, cards, flowers and jewellery. No one remembers anything of the saint behind the holiday, although we do know of a chubby little guy with wings and heart-shaped arrows. It’s great to show our appreciation to our loved ones through cards and gifts, and to see everyone walking through the streets with flowers and smiles. However, what we forget is that the market is simply thriving on our materialistic instinct, convincing us that love can be bought.
 
Our materialistic predispositions and the commercialisation of holidays are, in many ways, problematic. One the one hand, the holiday industry makes us look forward to celebrations. It lowers religious and cultural barriers. It encourages us to gather with family and friends. It’s inclusive; anyone and everyone can join in. However, running holidays as though they are businesses reduces their worth, and much of the meaning and values they originally carried are lost. 
 
 
What else can we expect when we live in a society that favours market-driven economic growth? It is the capitalist world that creates our desires and satisfies our wants. It is this same money-driven world that allows us to choose from a wide range of products in supermarkets at affordable prices. There are certainly benefits to our modern lifestyles; however, we should be careful not to give in to our materialistic instinct and let it consume us. By being aware of the dangers of our own consumerism we can prevent commercialisation from changing our outlook on what is really important to us: family, good relationships and living values. Holidays exist for a reason. Let’s not replace that reason with money. 
 
 
Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4
Estelle is a second year law student who comes from the tropical shores of Mauritius. She has been writing poems, magazine articles and an award-winning short story back home. Her passion is dancing. She participates in ballroom dancing competitions or just any event including dancing. Her other interests include fashion, music and badminton.
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