Bishop Antonio Stagliano of Santissimo Salvatore Basilica in Rome recently faced a lot of criticisms for telling children that Santa Claus is an imaginary character. It is true that he broke several little hearts but at the same time he was telling the truth.
It is high time that we understand that Christmas tree and Santa Claus are not part of the traditional religious celebration and only a figment of the worldwide commercialisation of Christmas. The true spirit lies in togetherness and inclusivity.
A Good Samaritan, Fabian Lyngdoh, recently uploaded a photograph of a pine tree in his garden on social media with the message, “Since the Christmas tree is not a religious tradition, but only a social tradition of joy and merry making originated in Germany, we don’t need to cut down pine trees every year. For the sake of the children, I planted a pine tree (kseh bilat) in my compound which is trimmed every year and used as a permanent Christmas tree for the past 10 years.”
It was a wonderful message to and awareness for all devotees and revellers. The state government should have also chosen the occasion to give out a similar message on deforestation and discouragement to felling pine trees (in several areas in the state, people cut down trees to decorate for Christmas) for celebrations.
If the government had to propagate environment awareness, it could have done through novel campaigns on various creative media. Such campaigns, like the ones carried out by the State Election Department, have always held water and piqued the interest of the mass. It would have been inclusive too.
There should also be a message of inclusivity. Many poor children in villages and on the streets of the city miss the fun of festivals. A campaign to make the privileged children aware of the plight and to encourage them to help the poor would have been an apt Christmas message. NGOs like SPARK, which work with street children, could have been roped in to strengthen the campaign.
Instead, it chose to organise Winter Tales festival as a precursor to Christmas celebrations. The idea was to encourage green Christmas. But the real motive was to get some green as visitors had to loosen their purse strings to enter the festival venue.
Festivals are meant for all and not just those with deep pockets. Had Winter Tales been really intended to encourage green Christmas, the government should not have put a price to it and allowed people from all strata of the society to participate.
The obscenity of this celebration becomes stark especially at a time when majority of the citizens are undergoing financial distress owing to a prolonged Covid-19 pandemic. This was also at a time when numerous government employees and teachers in the state are suffering owing to non-payment of salary.
At a time when the government has failed to compensate the poor and daily wage earners for jobless during the pandemic, the festival only puts a question mark on the authorities’ intention. The state, which has a weak exchequer, has already spent over Rs 3 crore of public fund on two festivals prior to Winter Tales. There was entry fee during that time too but not as exorbitant as it was for the ‘green Christmas’ celebration.
Even if the government argues saying high ticket price was intended to prevent more footfall as was during Cherry Blossom Festival, the question remains why another festival at all?
We have not yet reached the post-pandemic period and most of the citizens as well as the government have shown laxity in following healthcare protocols. When the fear of infection by the new variant lingers, authorities should have been more responsible and discouraged mass gatherings. This only dampens the message of green Christmas.
By commercialising the religious festival and excluding a large section of people, the true spirit of Christmas has been defiled. What is more atrocious is that despite several protests and criticisms and agony of people, the government has remained unfazed and arrogant.
~ Team Sunday Monitor
Photo by MM